In October 1974, a Black couple of Trinidadian immigrants moved to the Rosedale neighborhood in Queens, New York from London, England. Ormistan Spencer, a 34-year old production manager for a photo-engraving firm, and his wife, Glenda Spencer, a 31-year old administrative secretary, brought their three sons along with them. At the time, Rosedale was a majority-white neighborhood while Black families began to settle there from overcrowded areas in New York City. Before the Spencers officially moved into their $40,000 seven-room home at 243-11 136th Avenue, it was fire bombed in July 1974 after the purchase was finalized. The Spencers did not realize what was yet to come as they tried to bring in the new year in their home.
On December 31, 1974, a fire bomb was placed on the front porch of the home at 4:30 AM, which shattered the front windows. Attached to the fire bomb was a note that read “Nigger, be warned. We have time, we will get you. Your first born first.” The note was signed “Viva Boston KKK.” When the fire bomb blasted, Ormistan and Glenda Spencer were asleep in their bedroom upstairs, while their sons, Irwin, Peter, and Derrick, were in their bedroom downstairs. The boys’ bedroom faced some damage by debris from the blast. Glenda Spencer stated that she “planned to have a party tomorrow to celebrate the fixing up of the house after the July firebombing. Now everyone can come over and see the new damage.” In response to the bombing, the Spencers reported that police guarded the home, with a police officer actually attacked. The Spencers also reported racist slurs hurled at them by cars that passed by the home, but the Spencers maintained that they would not be run out of their home or the neighborhood. Back in London, the Spencers lived in a private home in an area mostly populated with white residents. “In England, you hear about this happening in the South, but you don’t hear about it happening in New York City,” Ormistan Spencer told a reporter.
By January 6, 1975, two suspects were captured by the New York Police Department after a tip led them to the 113th Precinct to be questioned and later, apprehended. Michael Biggio, a 29-year old accountant for the Board of Education hired 27-year old Arthur Zanoni, a dental technician, to bomb the Spencers’ home for $300. Michael Biggio lived at 224-19 136th Avenue, about a block away from Spencer’s home. Biggio and Zanoni were arraigned separately in Brooklyn Federal Court and was ordered to held on $25,000 bail of possession of an unregistered bomb by US Magistrate Max Schiffman. While in court, Assistant US Attorney Raymond Dearie said Biggio paid Zanoni to “manufacture, detonate, and and set the bomb” at the Spencer’s home on New Year’s Eve. Zanoni and Biggio met a month before the bombing took place in Brooklyn through a mutual friend. Zanoni was traced through the writing of the note that was attached to the bomb. The note was analyzed by the Police Department’s crime lab that connected the writing to the indentation of a notepad that was previously written on. Chemicals were used to bring out a message written on the notepad that read “Hi Nipples, call me as soon as you read this note. Love, Artie.” A number was also uncovered after the message, which was used by detectives to lead to Zanoni’s mother. Zanoni’s mother supplied his name and his Brooklyn address, 239 Nichols Avenue.
The New York Police Department staked out Zanoni’s home in Brooklyn. Zanoni later contacted the Rochdale police station, the precinct nearest to the bombing, to surrender himself as soon as he contacted his lawyer who was out of town at the time. The agents of the US Treasury Department’s Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms Bureau arrested Zanoni on January 5, 1975, while he drove near the Aqueduct Racetrack, with Biggio picked up some time later. Zanoni claimed he was on his way to surrender himself to the police when he was picked up by officers. Detectives and federal agents searched Zanoni’s home and found two rifles, electrical tools, and materials that could possibly be used to make a bomb. The agents also found the notepad which the note that was attached to the bomb, a note to his wife, and a third note that contained Biggio’s number and directions to his home. The two suspects brought the bomb to the Spencer home in Biggio’s car and Biggio waited for Zanoni to plant the bomb, and eventualy waited for the bomb to detonate. Zanoni pleaded “not guilty” in court and complained that he was harassed by Black prisoners during his stay at the detention.
On January 13, 1975, 200 Black people attended the AME Church in Jamaica, Queens to support the Spencers and donate $779 to the family for house repairs. Months later, a devastating acquittal of Arthur Zanoni and Michael Biggio took place at the Brooklyn Federal Court, after 20 hours of deliberation. Despite the notepad evidence and bomb equipment found at Zanoni’s home, Biggio and Zanoni were acquitted of federal gun contral laws. While at the home of the chairman of the group “Restore Our American Rights,” at 242-15 135th Street, Biggio stated “I feel terrific, I knew I would win.” He went on to say “I’m thankful to the people of Rosedale who stuck by me from the beginning when no one else would. The so-called religious, political, and civic leaders of Rosedale turned their backs on me.”