Hang­ing death of Black man in Palm­dale ruled sui­cide

San Francisco Chronicle Late Edition - - FROM THE COVER - By Ste­fanie Dazio and Christo­pher Weber Ste­fanie Dazio and Christo­pher Weber are As­so­ci­ated Press writ­ers.

LOS AN­GE­LES — The death of a Black man found hang­ing from a tree in a South­ern Cal­i­for­nia city park last month was ruled a sui­cide fol­low­ing a po­lice in­ves­ti­ga­tion prompted by out­rage from the fam­ily who said au­thor­i­ties ini­tially were too quick to rule out the pos­si­bil­ity he was lynched.

The man­ner of Robert

Fuller’s death on June 10 in Palm­dale in­ten­si­fied the racial angst that al­ready was at a boil­ing point fol­low­ing the death of Ge­orge Floyd in Min­neapo­lis. Fam­ily mem­bers said they couldn’t imag­ine Fuller, 24, tak­ing his own life and com­mu­nity ac­tivists noted the An­te­lope Valley area north of Los An­ge­les where the death oc­curred has a his­tory of racist in­ci­dents.

Los An­ge­les County Sher­iff Alex Villanueva promised a thor­ough in­ves­ti­ga­tion, and at a news con­fer­ence to an­nounce the find­ings, it was re­vealed Thurs­day that Fuller had a his­tory of men­tal ill­ness and sui­ci­dal ten­den­cies.

Sher­iff ’s Cmdr. Chris Marks out­lined three hospi­tal­iza­tions since 2017 where Fuller told doc­tors he was con­sid­er­ing tak­ing his life. The last was in Novem­ber, when he was be­ing treated for de­pres­sion at a hospi­tal in

Ne­vada and “dis­closed that he did have a plan to kill him­self,” Marks said.

Marks also said Las Ve­gas po­lice in­ves­ti­gated an in­ci­dent in Fe­bru­ary in which Fuller “al­legedly tried to light him­self on fire.”

No video of the death or wit­nesses to the sui­cide were found.

Marks said a red rope con­sis­tent with the one at the death site was pur­chased a month ear­lier at a Dol­lar Tree store with a pub­lic as­sis­tance ben­e­fits card reg­is­tered to Fuller. There was no video of the trans­ac­tion but de­tec­tives found videos show­ing Fuller made sub­se­quent pur­chases with the card.

In­ves­ti­ga­tors found the tree was easily climbable, the rope and a cloth fab­ric were tied in spots only ac­ces­si­ble from in the tree, Marks said.

Fuller’s hands were not bound, his cloth­ing and ap­pear­ance were neat, he wore a hat and back­pack, and had a knife in a pocket, Marks said. There were no signs of strug­gle or de­fen­sive wounds.

An ini­tial au­topsy was con­ducted the next day and homi­cide de­tec­tives re­quested a full au­topsy, Marks said. On June 12 de­tec­tives had a brief in­ter­view with a fam­ily mem­ber who re­ported a pos­si­ble prior men­tal health his­tory, and the death was deemed a sui­cide.

On Fri­day, the at­tor­ney for Fuller’s fam­ily did not dis­pute in­ves­ti­ga­tors’ lat­est find­ings.

“I have no in­for­ma­tion to sug­gest foul play. I have no in­for­ma­tion to sug­gest that any­thing was racially mo­ti­vated,” said lawyer Ja­mon Hicks.

Fuller’s fam­ily and friends de­scribed him as a peace­maker who loved mu­sic and video games, and mostly stayed to him­self. He went to a Black Lives Mat­ter protest days be­fore he died, the Los An­ge­les Times re­ported.

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