Spencer death benefit case up for review – again

SHANNON – Since the death of Shannon Police Chief Bobby Spencer in 1997, his family has been on an unpleasant roller coaster ride.
For almost 13 years, his widow, Teresa, and daughter, Andrea Spencer, have been trying to secure Spencer’s death benefits – money awarded to the family of an officer killed in the line of duty.
But after a lengthy investigation by the Mississippi Bureau of Investigations and several appeals, the Spencers have not seen any money. His death has not been ruled a line-of-duty death, despite his being shot while getting out of his squad car and heading into the police department.
Although many people were questioned about Spencer’s death on Jan. 18, 1997, no one was ever arrested in the case.
“We’ve been going through this for 13 years,” Andrea Spencer said. “We’ve had hope that things would be settled so many times just to end up disappointed because daddy’s death is not ruled an in-line-of-duty death. He was going into the police department, so I don’t know what else it could have been. I don’t want to lose hope, but honestly I haven’t been optimistic for a long time.”
But when Andrea Spencer got word last month that the Public Safety Officers’ Benefits program was reviewing her father’s claim again, the roller coaster started moving again.
Suzie Sawyer with Concerns of Police Survivors was asked by the PSOB to contact the Spencer family and the principals involved in the case because it was being reviewed again.
Sawyer said she contacted the Spencers as well as Mississippi Department of Public Safety Director Col. Michael Berthay, who was the lead investigator on the Bobby Spencer case in 2007.
“The PSOB is looking back at some unsolved claims because there has been a backlog of them over the past several years,” Sawyer said. “Bobby Spencer’s claim was one of the ones they called me about, so this is good news for the family that this is being brought back up. It remains an unsolved case and, honestly, these cases may never be solved, so a decision has to be made to either close the case of pay the claim.”
A person in the media relations department at the PSOB said that department does not give information about pending cases.
Even though Andrea Spencer knows her mother can use the money from her father’s death benefits, that’s not the main reason she wants to get her father’s death recognized as a line-of-duty death.
“My daddy’s name needs to be on the Law Enforcement Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C.,” Andrea Spencer said. “And until his death is ruled in the line of duty, that can’t happen. He loved Shannon more than anyone and he died doing his job and he should get that recognition.”
It is unknown how much money the Spencer family is eligible for and there is no timetable set for the ruling.
The Daily Journal was unable to contact Berthay for comment about the case.

Contact Danza Johnson at (662) 678-1583 or danza.johnson@djournal.com.

Danza Johnson/NEMS Daily Journal