PALMDALE – An attorney for the family of a 24-year-old Black man found hanging from a tree near Palmdale City Hall said Friday no evidence has been found to contradict the ruling that his death was a suicide.
“I don’t have any evidence to suggest that there was a hate crime, there is nothing to indicate threats, there’s nothing to indicate … foul play,” said Jamon Hicks, the attorney for the Robert Fuller‘s family, which had an independent autopsy conducted after the body was returned to them.
“There were no racist sentiments, no symbols or anything in the area, so we don’t have any information to suggest that it was a hate crime,” Hicks added.
Hicks said he is still working to gather evidence, including but not limited to any video that may have captured Fuller’s June 10 death, in order to give the family closure.
“I want to make it clear, I’m not expecting that (anything is) going to dramatically change, but in complete thoroughness to the family, I told them I will find out every answer that I can find out,” Hicks said.
He said Fuller’s relatives were not aware of his history with mental health issues prior to his death.
On Thursday, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Cmdr. Chris Marks, who oversees the department’s detective division, said the department’s investigation had determined that Fuller took his own life, citing physical evidence and Fuller’s history with mental illness and suicidal thoughts.
Marks said that history included January 2017 diagnosis of auditory hallucinations by a hospital in Arizona. Their records showed that Fuller “stated that he wanted to put a gun to his head,” according to Marks.
Fuller also admitted himself to a California hospital in February 2019 for “reportedly hearing voices telling himself to kill himself,” and in November 2019, he was treated at a Nevada hospital for “suicidal ideation and depression,” in which he disclosed that he had a plan to kill himself, Marks said.
A passerby found Fuller’s body hanging by a rope from a tree in Poncitlan Square about 3:40 a.m. June 10.
“Detectives identified a purchase from a local Dollar Tree store made on May 14, 2020 in which a red rope consistent with the one used in the hanging was purchased with EBT card registered to Mr. Fuller,” Marks said.
“There were no signs of a struggle, no defensive wounds observed and no other signs of trauma visible to Mr. Fuller,” according to Marks.
Shortly after Fuller’s body was found, sheriff’s detectives said the death appeared to be a suicide — sparking anger among many area residents who accused authorities of jumping to conclusions without investigating the possibility that Fuller was the victim of a lynching.
At a news conference at Palmdale City Hall shortly after Fuller’s death, residents hurled obscenities at sheriff’s and city officials as they tried to give an update on the investigation.
Fuller’s death came at the height of local and nationwide protests over police brutality and calls for racial equality following the death of George Floyd while being arrested by officers in Minneapolis.
Sheriff’s officials insisted the initial statement about suicide was only a preliminary determination, not the final result of the investigation, and vowed that a full probe would be conducted.
On May 31 in Victorville, a San Bernardino County community about 50 miles east of Palmdale, the body of another Black man was found hanging from a tree. Malcolm Harsch, 38, was found at 7 a.m., hanging from a tree near a homeless encampment.
His death further fueled community outrage in Palmdale, where a series of marches and demonstrations were held demanding justice for Fuller and Harsch.
In Victorville, video footage was eventually found that confirmed Harsh committed suicide.
At a news conference Thursday, Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva said his department had conducted a thorough investigation into Fuller’s death and he denounced any suggestions that investigators rushed to judgment in the case.
“A small segment of the community, and — unfortunately — a significant representation of county government elected leaders were trying to propel the narrative,” Villanueva said.
“But the overwhelming majority of the public trusts the sheriff’s department,” Villanueva said. “And as you can see, we complete an investigation and then we report on the results.”
Villanueva had said earlier that he called California Attorney General Xavier Becerra and reached out to the FBI to oversee the investigation to ensure transparency.
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