The apparent hanging death of a Black man in a community in northern Los Angeles County has prompted questions about authorities’ initial finding of suicide.
The body of Robert Fuller, 24, was found near Palmdale City Hall about 3:30 a.m. Wednesday by a passerby, county sheriff’s Capt. Ronald Schaffer said at a news conference Friday afternoon attended by some area residents.
“He was hanging from a tree,” Schaffer said. “Personnel from the adjacent fire station responded and determined that he had passed. Although the investigation is ongoing, it appears that Mr. Fuller has tragically died by suicide.”
Someone in the audience said, “That’s a lie. That’s a lie.”
According to NBC Los Angeles, members of Fuller’s family and a sheriff’s investigator on the case said there was no indication he left a suicide note.
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The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department said in a statement earlier Friday the death was thought to be a suicide but that a probe is ongoing.
“Investigators have been in contact with Mr. Fuller’s family and are continuing their investigation into the circumstances surrounding Mr. Fuller’s death,” the statement said.
The county coroner’s office said in its own statement that a definitive cause of death has been deferred pending further investigation.
“When a cause of death is deferred, a deputy medical examiner is requesting additional investigation, including laboratory testing and witness statements, before providing a final determination on the cause and manner of death,” the office said.
Questions about Fuller’s death led demonstrators to gather Friday outside City Hall. The social media hashtag #JusticeForRobertFuller was being used to bring attention to the case.
On Friday, Kim Kardashian West urged her Twitter followers to endorse a Change.org petition calling for “a thorough and proper investigation.”
Palmdale officials released a statement on Saturday saying the city wants “an independent investigation and an independent autopsy” looking into Fuller’s death.
“The City of Palmdale is joining the family and the community’s call for justice, and we do support a full investigation into his death. We will settle for nothing less than a thorough accounting of this matter,” the statement said, adding that city officials have already reached out to Fuller’s family to offer help and support.
“We join with our community and Robert Fuller’s family in mourning his tragic death,” the city said.