D.A. Says Father-to-Be's Fatal Cabin Shooting Was Justified Under Pennsylvania's 'Stand Your Ground' Law

According to investigators, Peter Bernardo Spencer was acting irrationally and threatening others with an AK-47

Peter Bernardo Spencer
Peter Bernardo Spencer. Photo: GoFundMe

The shooting death of a 29-year-old Jamaican immigrant last year at a remote hunting camp in northwestern Pennsylvania was justified, according to District Attorney Shawn White, who revealed Tuesday the case was closed with no criminal charges filed.

Citing the state's Castle Doctrine, otherwise known as the "Stand Your Ground" law, White said the "tragic" killing of Peter Bernardo Spencer on Dec. 12, 2021, by a 25-year-old white former co-worker was an act of self-defense.

"We believe in this case that there is enough evidence presented for self-defense that we are not going to be able to overcome our burden and show this was not self-defense beyond a reasonable doubt, and for that reason, there will be no charges filed against the suspect in this case," White told reporters at a press conference.

The shooter has been previously described by Spencer's family as a "friend" who'd invited him to spend the weekend at his father's "dilapidated" cabin.

Spencer was shot nine times, officials confirmed. Two other individuals — a couple — were also at the cabin at the time of the shooting.

According to White, Spencer had ingested hallucinogenic mushrooms and smoked marijuana the night of the shooting, and witnesses told investigators he began acting irrationally, firing dozens of rounds from an illegally-obtained AK-47 assault rifle.

White alleged Spencer's voice was getting louder, and he shouted that he "was a god" and "creator, master and manipulator of his own reality."

White said that when an unidentified man tried finding firewood, Spencer ordered him at gunpoint to kneel on the ground. The man complied and was told to sprawl out on the ground.

Spencer at one point threatened to "shoot up the place." He aimed his gun at his friend, White said, at which point the man grabbed his pistol and shot Spencer, emptying his 9MM pistol.

The shooter ventured deep into the woods to get a cellular signal and called 911. Emergency responders arrived to find Spencer face down on the ground, which, according to White, indicates that the shooter was facing Spencer at the time he was killed.

A spokesperson for Spencer's family had previously said the expectant father was shot from beyond, and had likened his death to a "modern-day lynching."

"He was not ambushed," White said. "There were not multiple shooters, there was one and thus far ballistics and the autopsy have confirmed the witness statements from that night."

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Spencer's fiancée arrived at the cabin the morning after the shooting to pick him up and was told what happened. Police interviewed her that day.

As part of the investigation, the Pennsylvania State Police brought in the Heritage Affairs Team, which investigates hate crimes.

On Tuesday, members of that unit stated that no hate or bias was found during the investigation.

White said that footage and pictures from Spencer's phone showed that the group at the cabin seemed to be "having a good time" at the camp, after a full day of outdoor activities.

In a statement to WTAE-TV, Spencer's family said they "disagree with" White's decision, but "are not surprised by it. This is the type of behavior we have seen from the PA State Police and Venango County District Attorney from the outset."

The family will hold a news conference next week to respond to White's claims.

"Until that time, we ask everyone to please respect Peter's family by giving them the space they deserve to continue the healing process during this incredibly difficult time," the statement ends.

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