By Maria Decoteau
Community activists organized a vigil on Sunday in Pittsburgh’s Highland Park to mourn and honor the life of Peter Spencer, a Black man murdered under suspicious circumstances on December 12 while on a hunting trip in rural Pennsylvania. No one has been charged for the murder, and his family and activists say local law enforcement is trying to bury the case, as they raise demands for investigations to take place.
Spencer, 29, was a Black immigrant from Jamaica living in Pittsburgh. On December 10, Spencer was invited to a cabin in Rockland Township by Nathan Meier, Spencer’s former coworker, and was joined by three other people. Spencer was shot nine times and his body was found on the front lawn of the cabin, which belongs to Meier’s family, where police also found multiple firearms and as well as illicit drugs.
After speaking with Meier and the other individuals at the cabin, police released Meier and the others involved in the murder after the shooter(s), who remain unidentified, made a claim of self-defense. It has been two months since the murder and no arrest has been made.
Meier, and the other guests at the cabin, besides Spencer, were white. Spencer’s father, Conrad Spencer, believes that his son’s murder was racially motivated, and that racism is also a factor in the negligent response by the police.
A resident of Venango County, where Spencer was murdered, attended his vigil and was not surprised by the lack of action from local police: “The system has to change. This happens again and again. I’ve been thinking about revolution. I feel uncertain, because it’s the great unknown, right? . . . But I’m feeling more and more sure it’s what needs to happen, because there’s no other way.”
The vigil was organized by Justice for Jim Rogers, a group of activists fighting for Jim Rogers, an unarmed, homeless Black man killed by police last October. The event remembered Peter Spencer for his love of Jamaican culture and warm presence in the community. Spencer often sold Jamaican food and played music in Pittsburgh’s Highland Park, where the vigil took place in his honor.
“His smile is really what captivated the people. … If we had food left over at the end of the day, we gave it away to whoever was left in the park. … I want the whole world to know it: Peter was amazing,” said Darnella, a friend of Peter’s who also sells food in Highland Park.
Peter’s mother, Icilda, remembered her son’s love of people and his infectious smile: “He’s a people person and a nature person. He was always interested in helping people.”
Icilda also asked attendees for continued support in convicting Spencer’s killer(s). Demands released by the family’s attorney included that the Verango County coroner release all requested materials to an independent forensic pathologist; that the FBI/DOJ get involved in the investigation; and that the Venango County DA refer the case to Pennsylvania attorney general Josh Shapiro “in order to avoid the appearance of impropriety.”
Icilda told the vigil, “I’m just asking you all to just stand behind us, … as we push to fight for my son, and to give him justice, because he deserves it. He’s a person, he’s not just a number, he’s my child, I bore him for nine months, pain and everything, and now I’m feeling pain again.”
Peter is survived by his fiancee, Carmela King, who is expecting his child in June. Those who want to support Carmela and costs for her prenatal care can donate to her cashapp at $Carmi25.
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