The United States has a long history of white men being acquitted after killing black men during racist confrontations. However, rarely does one hear of a black man being found not guilty after killing a white man while defending himself from racism.
As WNEP reports, that's what happened to Stephen Spencer.
Spencer, a 31-year-old black man, turned over his gun to police after a deadly shooting at Saints and Sinners Irish Pub in Pittston, Pennsylvania. The shooting occurred late on a Sunday night in July 2017 and ended with 32-year-old Christopher Williams, a white man, dead. Police found Spencer shot Williams after the two began arguing; the argument started when Williams refused to shake Spencer's hand.
The then-30-year-old immediately turned himself in and was charged with criminal homicide, simple assault and terroristic threats. Williams was unarmed at the time and later died at a local hospital from the wound.
In a follow-up report, WNEP announced Spencer was acquitted of all charges on Friday.
During his trial, Spencer testified he fired his weapon in self-defense, fearing a group that followed him outside the bar were going to attack him.
According to Citizen's Voice, the defense claimed Spencer left the bar after peacefully enduring racial taunts all night. As he exited, the lawyers said several drunk white men followed him, and one yelled, "We’re going to get you, n****r!" Fearing for his life, Spencer, who has a concealed carry permit, pulled out his gun and fired a single shot.
The prosecution claimed Spencer's actions had nothing to do with the heckling that happened inside the bar, and he had ample opportunity to run away instead of drawing his weapon.
After a jury deliberated for four hours, Spencer's acquittal came.
“I was fighting for my life for 15 months, and I finally made it. Justice was served," Spencer said on Friday, according to the Atlanta Black Star.
Spencer was described during the trial as a family man with no criminal record, who owned his own business and who had carefully followed the law in acquiring and carrying a firearm.
“And the jury saw it, they saw it for what it was,” Spencer continued. “Ugly racism.”
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