PALMDALE – An investigation into the death of Robert Fuller, the 24-year-old Black man found hanging from a tree across from Palmdale City Hall on June 10, has determined that the death was a suicide, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department reported Thursday.
At an afternoon news conference, 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. [View the news conference here.]
“Investigators have met with the coroner’s office and discussed the final results,” Marks said. “Just this afternoon, the medical examiner issued their final autopsy report and delivered it to the sheriff’s department, and deemed this case to be a suicide.” [View the news release from the coroner’s office here.]
Marks said Fuller had a history of mental illness and suicidal thoughts, including a Jan. 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 Feb. 2019 for “reportedly hearing voices telling himself to kill himself,” and in Nov. 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 from a tree in Poncitlan Square about 3:40 a.m. on June 10 and his death was initially suspected to be a suicide by Los Angeles County sheriff’s detectives, an action that has brought the department under criticism and drawn national news coverage.
Demonstrations were held with protestors demanding an investigation by state Attorney General Xavier Becerra.
“The Sheriff’s Department immediately declared his death a suicide without completing a full and thorough investigation,” attorney Jamon R. Hicks with Douglas/Hicks Law said in June. “The lack of investigation and dismissal of this as a potential murder or hate crime has enraged Mr. Fuller’s family and the entire Antelope Valley community.”
At the news conference Thursday, Sheriff Alex Villanueva said his department had conducted a thorough investigation.
“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 Becerra and reached out to the FBI, whose civil rights division will also monitor the investigation.
“It is in our interest to make sure that we leave no rock unturned,” Villanueva said at that time, promising full access to outside investigators. “This death investigation obviously is of great concern to the community, not only of Palmdale, but throughout the nation. Robert Fuller was a young man in the prime of his life, and his death obviously is painful for many people.”
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