Wednesday, January 26, 2022

What happened in Venango County, PA? Murder or self-defense

Tony Norman writes in the Pittsburgh  Post-Gazette:

Let’s take a look at another “mysterious” killing that took place in nearby Venango County in early December.

Peter Bernardo Spencer, 29, of Pittsburgh by way of Kingston, Jamaica, had accepted the invitation of a former co-worker, who happens to be white, to visit him at his cabin on Carls Road in Rockland Township, along the Allegheny River.

At some point between 1 a.m. and 2:26 a.m. on Dec. 12, Mr. Spencer was shot nine times. Four of his gun shot wounds were in his back. He was dead by the time Pa. state troopers arrived to find him face down in front of the cabin.

Four people were taken into custody, including an unidentified 25-year-old who admitted he shot Peter Spencer, but out of “self-defense.” After consultation with the Venango County DA’s office, all four were released pending an investigation.

Can anyone in Pittsburgh of any racial background imagine shooting someone nine times without spending quality time at Allegheny County Jail — maybe even until the trial? Even if only half the number of bullets were used, had it happened here bail would be stratospheric.

Now, imagine if Mr. Spencer, with his dreadlocks and Jamaican accent, had been the shooter and a 25-year-old from Mt. Lebanon had been the victim with four slugs in his back. Would there have been any chance he would still be walking around free more than a month after the event?

The Spencer family hired former Allegheny County Coroner Cyril Wecht to conduct a private autopsy because the Venango County Coroner’s Office has refused to release photos or copies of its official report or internal notes to the family or its investigators.

Dr. Wecht didn’t mince words when the Philadelphia Inquirer asked him to comment on the Venango County DA’s bizarre refusal to cooperate with the family. “My initial thought is that it’s absurd to talk about self-defense with nine gunshot wounds,” he said in what must have been the most deadpan tone he could muster.

Black Political Empowerment Project Chairman Tim Stevens, to his credit, was asking questions early on. B-PEP sent letters demanding an immediate investigation into the circumstances of Mr. Spencer’s death to U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland, Pa. Gov. Tom Wolf, Pa. Attorney General Josh Shapiro and the Venango County DA’s office.

Now the case is slowly beginning to attract national interest, so it won’t be long until the Venango County DA’s office is under the same spotlight Jackie Johnson’s office in Georgia found itself under when it did nothing after Ahmaud Arbery was lynched.

The Spencer family has already called what happened to Peter Bernardo Spencer a “modern-day lynching.” Venango County is going to have to do more than hide behind procedural mumbo-jumbo to counter the charge. It needs to become transparent immediately or lose credibility.

If a Black man from the city visits a cabin in rural Pennsylvania, gets shot nine times and the shooter claims self-defense, the family of the victim is owed an explanation. Why are we hearing about Mr. Spencer’s past troubles with the law and nothing about the suspect or the others who were there that night? Drugs and weapons were found at the cabin, but six weeks later no one has been arrested.

Maybe this is simply how things are done in Venango County, but the rest of us aren’t obliged to pretend we’re still living in a time when a small town can bury its secrets. This is not a John Grisham novel.

To read more CLICK HERE

No comments:

Post a Comment