Elected Officials Call For Attorney General Becerra To Investigate Robert Fuller's Death

Protesters gathered Saturday around the tree in a Palmdale park where Robert Fuller was found hanged. (Josie Huang/LAist)

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County and state officials who represent Palmdale are calling for the state Attorney General to investigate the death of a young black man who was found hanging from a tree in a public park last Wednesday.

The L.A. County Sheriff's Department said 24-year-old Robert Fuller appeared to have died by suicide, but family and friends say his death looks more like a lynching.

"I asked California State Attorney General Xavier Becerra to conduct an independent investigation into the death of Mr. Robert Fuller," Supervisor Kathryn Barger said on Saturday. "The attorney general, as the lead attorney and law enforcement official for the state of California, will lend additional expertise and oversight into this important investigation and provide the community with the answers they deserve."

Barger added, "It is my hope that our collective efforts will help to support those struggling and grieving surrounding the circumstances of this tragedy."

State Senator Scott Wilk and Assemblymember Tom Lackey, both Republicans from the Antelope and Santa Clarita valleys, also called for Becerra to investigate the death.


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Fuller's family has contested the initial finding of a suicide and are calling for an independent investigation and autopsy.

Hundreds of people gathered in Palmdale on Saturday to demand answers about Fuller's death, which was discovered Wednesday.

"The city of Palmdale is joining the family [of Fuller] and the community's call for justice, and we do support a full investigation into his death," said Palmdale Public Information Officer John Mlynar. "We will settle for nothing less than a thorough accounting of this matter."

"The city has already reached out to Mr. Fuller's family, offering help and support, and will do everything possible to assist Mr. Fuller's family during this difficult time as a complete vetting of his death is investigated," Mlynar said. The city joined the Fuller family in the call for an independent investigation and autopsy, he said.

Protesters in Palmdale on Saturday call for an investigation. (Josie Huang/LAist)

Sheriff's officials said Thursday that the death appeared to be a suicide, but investigators were waiting for full autopsy results and information from the man's relatives before making a final determination, according to Lt. Brandon Dean of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.

The Los Angeles County coroner's office performed an autopsy Friday, but deferred the cause of death.

"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," an official at the coroner's office said.

Sheriff's officials reiterated Saturday that the death appears to be a suicide, but the investigation is ongoing.

Meanwhile, an investigation continues into the hanging death of another Black man, this one in Victorville, which is about 50 miles east of Palmdale.

Malcolm Harsch, 38, was found at 7 a.m. on May 31, hanging from a tree near a public library in Victorville.

The San Bernardino Sheriff's Department has made a preliminary determination that his death was also a suicide and that no foul play was involved, although the case remains under investigation. Like Fuller's family, Harsch's relatives are doubtful he took his own life.

"He didn't seem to be depressed to anyone who truly knew him," Harsch's 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."

Both deaths come during a national conversation about racism in the United States in the aftermath of George Floyd's death in Minneapolis, and the circumstances evoke the country's sordid history of lynchings.

Nearly 5,000 lynchings occurred in the U.S. between 1882 and 1968, according to the NAACP. More than 70% of those lynched were black.

A virtual town hall is scheduled from 2-4 p.m. Monday in which residents of Palmdale and Lancaster can discuss Fuller's death and the investigation. Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva will co-host the event, along with captains from the two cities' sheriff's stations.

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