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Deliberations Begin In Pittston Homicide Trial

October 5, 2018

WILKES-BARRE - Is he a murderer or did Stephen Jamal Spencer act in self defense when he fatally shot a man last year outside a Pittston bar?

A Luzerne County jury could soon decide as deliberations began this afternoon in the racially charged case.

During closing arguments, Luzerne County Assistant District Attorney Tom Hogans said Spencer had the opportunity - and duty - to retreat rather than pull his gun.

Spencer, 31, fatally shot Christopher Williams outside Saints and Sinners Irish Pub on Center Street in July 2017.

“Shooting an unarmed man on a street when you can retreat is not self defense,” Hogans said.

“He intentionally shot him in a vital part of his body.”

Hogans said Spencer also had time to warn Williams he was armed.

Defense attorney John Pike argued Spencer, who is black, was defending himself after enduring a night of racial taunting by drunk bar goers who were white. They followed him outside the bar, Pike said.

 “What’s going to trigger a racist? A black man in their white bar. Fueled by alcohol,” Pike said.

Pike said

Pike said members of the group were moving aggressively toward Spencer prior to the shooting and shouted “we’re gonna get you (racial slur).”

“In his mind, he was terrified and did what he had to do in those few seconds,” Pike said.

He noted Spencer has no criminal history and possessed a valid concealed carry permit for the gun. Pike also pointed out Spencer fired only one shot and stopped when the threat stopped.

However, Spencer is also charged with simple assault and terroristic threats for allegedly pointing a gun at a woman after shooting Williams.

Witnesses said racial tensions were escalating all night at the bar after Williams’ cousin refused to shake Spencer’s hand because he is black.

Spencer arrived at the bar with Williams’ friend, Henry Gift, who is Spencer’s neighbor.

As Spencer and Gift were leaving, Gift said he was attacked from behind by two people he didn’t see.

Spencer was a little bit in front of him.

The attack — which Gift said he believed was motivated because he “was with a black guy at a bar” — left him with a black eye and was only interrupted when Gift heard the gunshot Spencer fired from up ahead on the sidewalk, he said.

bkalinowski@citizensvoice.com, 570-821-2055

@cvbobkal 

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