Dual incidents of hangings of two Black men in separate incidents in California within weeks of one another are drawing outrage and causing skepticism about what really happened to them among many, including state officials who are calling for further investigation by law enforcement.
In Palmdale, Calif., 24-year-old Robert Fuller was found hanged at a courtyard near Palmdale City Hall last Wednesday (June 10.) The Los Angeles County Medical Examiner had initially determined that the death was a suicide, but that conclusion was rejected by his family and local leaders, who demanded an investigation.
Fuller’s body was discovered about 3:30 a.m., by a passerby. His family insisted that he had no reason to consider suicide, and that fuels their skepticism. They described him as a peacemaker who bothered no one. He had attended a Black Lives Matter rally days before. It is unclear if any nearby security cameras captured him committing suicide or any foul play.
“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,” L.A. County Supervisor Kathryn Barger told The Los Angeles Times. She, along with state Sen. Scott Wilk of Santa Clarita and Assemblyman Tom Lackey of Palmdale have called for an independent inquiry into the death.
“Robert Fuller’s family and our community can’t have closure [without] a complete independent investigation,” Wilk wrote in a Twitter message.
His family remains bewildered about the circumstances of his death and they want answers.
“This is really crazy to all of us,” said Fuller’s sister, Diamond Alexander. “We want to find out the truth of what really happened. Everything that they’ve been telling us has not been right.
“To be here, staring at this tree, it don’t make no [sic] sense,” Alexander added. “My brother was not suicidal. My brother was a survivor.”
As many as 260,000 people signed a Change.org petition demanding an investigation into Fuller’s death, according to the Associated Press. Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva was expected to hold an online town hall on Monday to address the situation.
Meanwhile, an investigation is ongoing into the May 31 death of Malcolm Harsch, 38, who was also found hanging from a tree in Victorville, Calif., about 50 miles away from Palmdale. Authorities say that there were no indications of foul play. San Bernardino Sheriff’s Department spokesperson Jodi Miller said in an email to the Palm Springs Desert Sun the cause and manner of death are pending.
But his family says that the investigation is taking too long and they also believe his death is suspicious.
"He didn't seem to be depressed to anyone who truly knew him," the family told the Desert Sun in a statement. "Everyone who knew our brother was shocked to hear that he allegedly hung himself and don't believe it to be true as well as the people who were there when his body was discovered. The explanation of suicide does not seem plausible."
The family said that, according to a sheriff’s deputy, a USB cord was used in the hanging.
"There was blood on his shirt but there didn't appear to be any physical implications at the scene to suggest that there was a struggle or any visible open wounds at that time," the family said. "There are many ways to die but considering the current racial tension, a Black man hanging himself from a tree definitely doesn't sit well with us right now," the family said. "We want justice, not comfortable excuses."
Photo Credits: GoFundMe; Change.org