A young man was found hanging in a tree in Palmdale, California, authorities have called his death a suicide, however, the family disputes this narrative, Fox News reported.
Robert Fuller an African American in his 20’s was found hanging around 4 a.m. Wednesday by a witness who saw Fuller’s body hanging from a tree in an area called the Poncitlan Square, 38300 block of 9th Street East. The witness immediately called 911 and police responded. Homicide detectives have initially said that Fuller killed himself however, the investigation is ongoing according to reports.
“From initial investigation of the scene and everything we’ve recovered at the scene, all signs right now lead us to believe this was a suicide,” Lt. Brandon Dean with the Palmdale sheriff’s station told LAist “Without going into too much detail, it doesn’t appear there was any sign of a fight or struggle.”
Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department (LASD) Palmdale Station said that early indicators revealed that Fuller, died by suicide and that “there are no signs of a struggle or that he was hung up.”
LASD stated a 24-year-old man likely hanged himself in a Palmdale park this week. But limited details about the case — and the symbolism of a young man dying by hanging in the Antelope Valley — have some speculating on social media that Fuller was the victim of a hate crime.
Fuller was attached to addresses in Palmdale and Las Vegas, and Dean said the sheriff’s department is “still talking to family members to see where he was laying his head at night.”
On Twitter, speculation about what happened to Fuller drove the hashtag, “JusticeForRobertFuller,” to trend nationally on Friday. Twitter wasn’t the only one to chime in on Fuller’s death and suspect a hate crime, several community members confronted city officials at a news conference on Friday, questioning why officials were quick to label Fuller’s death a suicide and questioning whether foul play was involved, LA Times reported.
— [Ready:Rick] (@rickyeatsbeats) June 12, 2020
The family of Fuller, including his sister, Diamond Alexander dispute that the man hung himself in a tree.
“My little brother died here alone,” Diamond Alexander said on Facebook in a post sharing an article about Fuller’s death. “This s—t hurts, please keep us in prayers.”
Protest plans were circulating on social media Friday morning for a community rally this Saturday at 11 a.m. in the park where Fuller’s body was found. One flier reads, “Robert was murdered in front of city hall. Hung in a tree & they are trying to cover it up.”
The City of Palmdale put out a statement via Twitter.
“The City of Palmdale extends its sincere condolences and sympathies to the family and friends of the individual who tragically passed away in Palmdale on Wednesday, June 10. Our thoughts and prayers are with them,” the city said in a statement.
City officials also added this was not the first suicide that has occurred in Palmdale during the coronavirus pandemic.
“Many people are suffering extreme mental anguish and the City wants everyone to know that help is available,” said City Manager J.J. Murphy. “There are local resources such as Mental Health America of Los Angeles, AV Vet Center, and the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health.”
City Manager J.J. Murphy also addressed Fuller’s death in a separate report in the Antelope Valley Press, stating: “My first concern is with this individual, his family members, and anybody else out there in our community who is at wit’s end.”
Murphy added, “[s]adly, it is not the first such incident since the CV pandemic began. Many people are suffering extreme mental anguish and the City wants everyone to know that help is available,” he said.
It’s worth noting for readers, Palmdale’s sordid history includes documented activity by neo-Nazi youth gangs and housing discrimination against African Americans. In fact, in 2007, KKK posters were found in the area depicting two prominent black activists hanging from a tree and signed near Knight High School. “It depicts two images of the Rev. Jesse Jackson and the Rev. Al Sharpton, hanging from a tree and says, `Nappy headed pimps, don’t come to the Antelope Valley,’ with `KKK’ underneath it,” Darren Parker, then president of the Antelope Valley Human Relations Task Force said about the posters.
Although authorities have said that Fuller killed himself, there is a plethora of evidence that points in the direction of this being a hate crime murder including the location near City Hall. A GoFundMe page set up by Diamond, in Robert Fuller’s memory has so far had over 5,000 people donate more than $100,000 towards funeral expenses for the family.
Diamond was overcome by the generosity of the internet writing a heart filled thank you message.
“Words can’t describe how my family is feeling,” Diamond wrote. “We grew up there in the Antelope Valley, we have so many friends, families that loved Robert. Please help with whatever you can. We greatly appreciate everyone. Thank you for standing with us during this difficult time.”