The death of Robert Fuller, a 24-year-old Black man found hanging from a tree last month across from Palmdale City Hall, has been deemed a suicide by the Los Angeles County Coroner's Office in a conclusion announced Thursday following a final autopsy report and investigation by the sheriff's department.
Fuller's death was initially determined by authorities to be a suicide last month, but family and community members called for further investigation. In an update Thursday, sheriff's department officials provided details about their investigation and announced the final coroner's autopsy examination shows that Fuller's manner of death was certified as a suicide.
"Investigators have met with the coroner's office and discussed the final results," sheriff's department Cmdr. Chris Marks said. "Just this afternoon, the medical examiner issued their final autopsy report and delivered it to the sheriff's department, and deemed this case to be a suicide."
Investigators documented mental health struggles, including a previous suicide attempt.
"It's just a sad commentary on the mental health awareness and to get help to people who desperately need it," Sheriff Alex Villanueva said.
They also cited evidence obtained during the investigation, including a transaction that showed a red rope was purchased at a Dollar Tree Store on May 14, about a month before Fuller's death, with an Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) card registered to Fuller. A similar red rope was found at the scene, authorities said.
The tree was easily accessible and could be climbed by Fuller, the sheriff’s department said. There were no signs of a struggle, and Fuller’s hands were not bound, authorities added.
Family members were out of the state at the time of the sheriff's department news conference, Villanueva said.
The family has requested an independent autopsy. In a statement on the firm's Facebook page, the family's attorney said they are waiting for results.
Attorney Jamon R. Hicks, who represents the family of Fuller, delivered a news conference Friday. Attorneys say they've found no evidence that foul play was involved in Fuller's death.
"I don't have any evidence to suggest that there was a hate crime, there is nothing to indicate threats, there's nothing to indicate... foul play," said Jamon Hicks, the attorney for the Robert Fuller's family. "There were no racist sentiments, no symbols or anything in the area, so we don't have any information to suggest that it was a hate crime,'' Hicks added.
Hicks said he is still working to gather evidence, including but not limited to any video that may have captured Fuller's June 10 death, in order to give the family closure.
"I want to make it clear, I'm not expecting that (anything is) going to dramatically change, but in complete thoroughness to the family, I told them I will find out every answer that I can find out,'' Hicks said.
He said Fuller's relatives were not aware of his history with mental health issues prior to his death.
A passerby found Fuller's body hanging from a tree in Poncitlan Square on June 10. Investigators obtained security camera video from the area that showed a nearby street, but did not show the tree.
In a statement Thursday, the coroner's office said Fuller's body was examined by medical personnel on June 11. The next day, a full autopsy was completed and the cause and manner of death were deferred.
"After additional testing and independent investigation into the Fuller's medical history and background, the cause of death was determined to be hanging," the coroner's office said in a statement. "The manner of death was certified as suicide."
Villanueva vowed to conduct a thorough investigation into the death with cooperation from state and federal law enforcement. Villanueva has said he called state Attorney General Xavier Becerra and reached out to the FBI, whose civil rights division will also monitor the investigation.
Fuller died about a week after the death of another Black man found hanging form a tree. No foul play is suspected in the death of thirty-eight-year-old Malcolm Harsch.
If you or someone you know is at risk of suicide please call the U.S. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255, text TALK to 741741 or go to SpeakingOfSuicide.com/resourcesfor additional resources.