Hanging death of Black man in Palmdale ruled suicide
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.