PALMDALE — Hundreds of people gathered Saturday at City Hall to demand answers in Wednesday’s death of a 24-year-old black man found hanging from a tree near the area, while city officials called for an independent investigation into the death.
“The City of Palmdale is joining the family (of Robert Fuller) and the community’s call for justice, and we do support a full investigation into his death,” Public Information Officer John Mlynar said. “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.
Kathryn Barger, chair of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors whose 5th District includes the Antelope Valley, called on California State Attorney General Xavier Becerra to conduct an independent investigation into the death.
“It is my hope, that our collective efforts will help to support those struggling and grieving surrounding the circumstances of this tragedy,” she said.
State Sen. Scott Wilk and Assemblyman Tom Lackey also requested Beccera’s oversight.
Fuller’s death has generated intense scrutiny, especially after nationwide protests rebuking the police killing of George Floyd. In a surprising turn, the case brought to light the death of another black man found hanging from a tree on May 31 in Victorville, about 45 miles east of Palmdale.
Saturday’s demonstration began outside City Hall, with the crowd eventually making its way several hundred feet to the tree where Fuller’s body was found with a rope around his neck just before 4 a.m. Wednesday in Poncitlán Square, across from City Hall.
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 on Fuller on Friday, and 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 still ongoing.
Anyone with information about the death was urged to call the Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau at 323-890-5500.
A virtual town hall is scheduled from 2 to 4 p.m. Monday in which residents of Palmdale and Lancaster can discuss the 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. Visit bit.ly/2XQ1JgF to register for the event.
Authorities in San Bernardino County said they were still investigating the cause of death of 38-year-old Malcolm Harsch, whose body was found hanging in a tree near the Victorville City Library. A sheriff’s spokeswoman, Jodi Miller, told Victor Valley News foul play was not suspected in Harsch’s death but the man’s family said they were concerned it will be ruled a suicide to avoid further attention.
In a statement to the publication on Saturday, the family said a few people who were at the scene told them there was blood on his shirt but no indication of a struggle. They said Harsch didn’t seem to be depressed and had recent conversations with his children about seeing them soon.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.