Community demands an investigation after a Black man was found dead hanging from tree outside of Palmdale City Hall
- The Los Angeles Sheriff's Department is investigating the death of Robert Fuller, a 24-year-old Black man, who was found dead hanging from a tree near Palmdale City Hall earlier this week.
- Authorities initially said he appeared to have died by suicide, but a "full autopsy is anticipated in the immediate future," the LASD said in a statement.
- The initial assessment of his death was met with public outcry, as people demanded the case be thoroughly investigated and possibly considered a hate crime.
- If you or someone you know is struggling with depression or has had thoughts of harming themselves or taking their own life, get help. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255) provides 24/7, free, confidential support for people in distress, as well as best practices for professionals and resources to aid in prevention and crisis situations.
The Los Angeles Sheriff's Department is investigating the death of a Black man who was found dead Wednesday hanging from a tree near Palmdale City Hall.
The body of the 24-year-old man, later identified as Robert Fuller, was spotted at 3:39 a.m. local time on Wednesday in the 38300 block of 9th Street East in Palmdale, officials said at a press conference Friday. Police and emergency responders arrived at the scene soon after and pronounced him dead.
"Although the investigation is ongoing, it appears that Mr. Fuller has tragically died by suicide," Captain Ronald Shaffer, of the LA County Sheriff's Palmdale station, said during a press conference. A press release from the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department said a full autopsy is "anticipated in the immediate future."
The line was met with outcry from those attending the press conference, with some people saying "no peace" and "that's a lie."
"Remember what the first coroner said about George Floyd? We need another coroner," one attendee said, according to a livestream of the press conference.
Another attendee cited the case of Breonna Taylor, who was shot eight times in her home when officers served a "no-knock" warrant. The incident report from Taylor's case reported her injuries as "none."
The City of Palmdale posted on Facebook in response to Fuller's death, saying the city "extends its sincere condolences and sympathies to the family and friends of Robert Fuller who tragically passed away in Palmdale on Wednesday, June 10."
An early press release linked his death to COVID-19 citing "extreme mental anguish" amidst the pandemic.
"Many people are suffering extreme mental anguish and the City wants everyone to know that help is available," City Manager J.J. Murphy said in a statement. Officials deeming the death a suicide prior to the conclusion of the investigation contributed to community outrage.
According to LAist, the mayor of Palmdale, Steve Hofbauer, admitted that "we should have stated it better," adding that they "were going off of what the coroner was telling the sheriff."
Family members of Fuller set up a GoFundMe to assist with funeral costs; it has since garnered more than $75,000 at the time of publication.
"Words can't describe how my family is feeling," the description of the GoFundMe read. "We grew up there in the Antelope Valley, we have so many friends, families that loved Robert."
"We greatly appreciate everyone," the statement reads. "Thank you for standing with us during this difficult time."
#JusticeforRobertFuller trended on Twitter as people demanded answers on whether his case was being investigated as a hate crime, and some marched outside the Palmdale Sheriff's Department.
—Nicole Dome (@emodelocin) June 12, 2020
—Francisco Lozano (@FrancisLozano7) June 12, 2020
An unidentified person was also recorded giving an emotional speech to protesters who were at the site where Fuller was found.
"Stop letting this stuff happen," they said in the video, fighting back tears. "... I was just saying about George Floyd, are we just going to wait until it's somebody we know? Now it is somebody I know, and it's not right."
—Nicole Dome (@emodelocin) June 12, 2020
As of 9 p.m. ET, the petition had gathered more than 40,000 signatures.
"During such a heightened time with the Black Lives Matter movement and the city's quickness to call his death a suicide before any investigation, there is reason to believe that Robert's death was a lynching," the description of the petition read, adding that the Palmdale and the Antelope Valley have a "history of racism and negligence."
"We demand the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department Palmdale Station and the City of Palmdale to conduct a full, thorough investigation into Robert's death," the petition continued. "We demand security footage in Poncitlán Square to be presented and audio of the call placed when his body was found. We demand justice to be served for Robert and his loved ones."
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