PALMDALE — Hundreds of community members demanded answers Friday after Robert L. Fuller, a 24-year-old black man, was found hanging by a rope on a tree Wednesday in Ponciltán Square.

Although the investigation is ongoing, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau said Friday it appears Fuller “tragically, committed suicide,” based on initial reports.

The coroner’s office performed an autopsy on Fuller on Friday and deferred the cause of death.

The protesters carried signs with phrases such as “Robert’s Life Mattered,” “Justice 4 Robert” and Protect Black Lives” and “Black Lives Matter.” They shouted Fuller’s name and called for justice.

Hundreds of people gathered at City Hall a few hundred feet from where Fuller died to call for justice.

““If there was foul play involved of course we hope to get justice,” said Debra Lemle, Fuller’s cousin. “We don’t know what’s going on. We don’t have any information. We want answers.”

Asked to describe her cousin, Lemle said Robert had a good smile.

“He was a good kid,” Lemle said.

Kenny Johnson did not know Fuller. He held up a red, white, and blue sign that said “Robert’s life mattered.”

“He was me; that’s how I feel. This is my home and that could have been me,” Johnson said. “Black man was found hanging on a tree. When I see that, I see myself.”

Noah Yozgadlian, who also did not know Fuller, held up a sign that said “Justice 4 Robert.”

“I came to show some love,” Yozgadlian said. “I’m representing my family right now. … I just want everyone to come together. It’s diverse out here, there’s whites, there’s blacks. Everyone just comes together and it’s beautiful. We’re coming peacefully. We’re not rioting.”

Johnson added they want answers.

“We want to find out what happened. We want justice,” Johnson said.

Red, white and blue candles and bouquets of red and yellow flowers sat at the base of the tree believed to be where Fuller died.

Mocha Cole called for unity.

“We have to remember where we originated from,” Cole said, with tears in her eyes. “We are united, you know, nobody’s better than (another). This kind of thing can bring colored people down and that’s one thing I don’t like because I am mixed.”

Fuller’s friend Majestyk Fowler said Robert was a joyful person.

“He didn’t let people’s words define him,” Fowler said in a telephone interview.

Fowler, who attended Hillview Middle School with Fuller, said Fuller was bullied a lot because of his skin color.

“He laughed it off. He didn’t care,” Fowler said. “He was very lighthearted. He was a comedian. He made jokes about everything. I think that’s why all of us are having such a hard time believing that this was a suicide because he wasn’t one to publicly show his pain or hurt or weakness, or anything. He wouldn’t have made such a public statement, if he was in pain. I think that’s why all of us are in disbelief that they’re classifying this as a suicide.”

Fowler added Fuller was a loving person.

“He gave me advice when I needed it,” Fowler said.

Palmdale Mayor Steve Hofbauer, City Manager J.J. Murphy, and Palmdale Sheriff’s Station Commander Capt. Ron Shaffer held a press conference at City Hall to address protesters’ concerns.

Protesters asked about the possibility of surveillance camera footage that could help authorities determine what happened.

“The investigation is continuing and a full autopsy is being completed,” Shaffer said.

Shaffer added detectives have been in contact with Fuller’s family to make sure the investigation is continuing to get a full understanding of how Fuller died.

Shaffer encouraged anyone with information about Fuller’s recent travels or the incident to contact the sheriff’s Homicide Bureau at 323-890-5500.

Protesters asked about the possibility of surveillance camera footage that could help authorities determine what happened.

Shaffer said there are no video cameras in the area, which the crowd vociferously rejected.

Members of the crowd shouted at city officials, sometimes with vulgarities, and demanded their attention.

“It’s not OK because that’s why we here,” one woman said.

“You’re 100% right. It is not right. It’s damn wrong that this happened,” Hofbauer said. “And that’s why … we’re working hard to try to figure out what happened.”

“Our heart goes out to the family and goes out to Rober,” Murphy said. “We are not going to let a stone go unturned in this investigation. We’re going to keep at it. I know you want answers; we want answers. ... All I can tell you is we care for the right answer. And if it takes three days or three months, we owe it to Robert and his family to come up with the right answer.”

The death comes on the heels of a national conversation about racism  in the U.S., and the circumstances of Fuller’s death evokes 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.

Palmdale sheriff’s station Capt. Ron Shaffer told the crowd  investigators have been in touch with Fuller’s family. He said the department  is asking for the public’s help to learn about his whereabouts prior to his  death.

(6) comments

Jimzan

In America everyone is "innocent" until proven guilty....any other concept is 3rd world thinking.

Lovinight

Nobody ever wants to speak evil of the dead, my son went to school with him, I asked him if he was trouble and my son said OH YES!

Vvk

I’ve lived in Palmdale for 15 years now. For those not familiar with the Antelope Valley, this town is FULL OF RACISTS. Whether explicit or hidden because of titles as teachers, school officials, and especially the police out here. So that simple fact makes it difficult not to jump to conclusions but one thing no one can deny is the suspicious way this was handled! They announced the same day as body being discovered that it is a suicide and “wouldn’t be the first during covid.” With a hotline number. whether you believe he did or didn’t commit suicide BOTTOM LINE WE SHOULD NOT HAVE TO PROTEST TO GET A FULL INVESTIGATION! That’s what this is about. How can the racial implications be ignored an then make such an assertion as that? Especially now during times of progress where our own local protest were bombarded by people spewing threats of killing Mexicans and black and “taking our city back because you all don’t belong.” If the cops can say (without thorough investigation/autopsy) it was a suicide, we can call it a lynching until PROVEN otherwise! At this point find actual video of him doing the act or we will never believe/accept he did this to himself

Jimzan

Did Robert L. Fuller has issues... ie Depression?..the V.Press does not seem to address the issue.Seems like someone may be race baiting. Make sure there are plenty of blacks when the case is investigated...and "report" the results..don't just ignore the outcome, if it doesn't suit your agenda. Tragic indeed

Douglas Funny

There you go again being PENCIL THIN and SMALL as usual floating these heartless ideas that only Mike Pence would agree with. You’re such a SOFT SHAFT of a man. Please unplug your PCI keyboard and mound and find a life.

Jimzan

How Dems roll ...name calling without stating any facts. Shift the focus "off" the current issue because logic is your enemy. Weak and desperate just like Democratic leadership...thats why district 25 (our district) flipped and Garcia won and "took" Katie Hills place. Rumor has it Cali has flipped to Red...Dougie knows his party is failing fast...look at his comments...that of a person sinking in quicksand..the more he panic's the faster he will sink , by his desperate comments. Also when all is said and done most Dems "remove" their comments (which sometimes removes your comment) because they know they look stupid, and just wanted to waste your time...That's why the Dems only have the House of Reps left...come Nov 3rd I bet they will even lose that..We are witnessing the destruction of the Democratic Party...rightfully so.

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