LOS ANGELES, June 16 — Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva yesterday pledged a “thorough” investigation into the death of a black 24-year-old man found hanging from a tree in southern California.
“It is in our interest to make sure that we leave no rock unturned,” Villanueva told a news conference, adding that he had contacted the state attorney general and had reached out to the FBI over Robert Fuller’s death last week.
“This death investigation obviously is of great concern to the community, not only of Palmdale, but throughout the nation,” the sheriff said. “Robert Fuller was a young man in the prime of his life, and his death obviously is painful for many people.”
Authorities had initially said that Fuller — who was found at around 3:30am last Wednesday with a rope around his neck near the city hall in Palmdale, about 60 miles northeast of Los Angeles — had taken his own life — but then backtracked and ordered an autopsy.
Villanueva said investigators plan to seek out surveillance video and conduct forensic analysis of the rope used in Fuller’s death and look into his medical history.
They also plan to speak with his family and the witnesses who found him.
“They’re gonna stick to it ‘til they get to the truth of what happened,” Villanueva said.
Thousands of protesters had gathered on Saturday in Palmdale to remember Fuller and to demand a full investigation to determine whether he died by suicide of if there was foul play.
Fuller’s family has cast doubt on the possibility he would take his own life and has urged a full investigation.
“We want to find out the truth on what really happened,” his sister, Diamond Alexander, said on Saturday. “Everything they told us is not right. We just want the truth. My brother was not suicidal. He was a survivor. He was street smart.”
Tommie Anderson, a close friend of Fuller, described him as “the sweetest person you know.”
“He had the biggest smile, the best laugh,” she told the local ABC station. “He could make two people who didn’t like each other sit in a room together.”
Fuller’s death took place as protests over police brutality and racism have roiled American cities in recent weeks following the death of George Floyd while in custody in Minneapolis.
Questions have also been raised following the death last month of another black man about 50 miles east of Palmdale.
Malcolm Harsch, 38, was found on May 31 hanging from a tree near a homeless encampment in Victorville.
The San Bernardino Sheriff’s Department said no foul play is suspected but his family has also raised concerns.
“He didn’t seem to be depressed to anyone who truly knew him,” his family told reporters. “Everyone who knew our brother was shocked to hear that he allegedly hung himself and don’t believe it to be true. The explanation of suicide does not seem plausible.” — AFP