PALMDALE, Calif. (KTLA) – Hundreds gathered in Palmdale Saturday morning to demand answers in the death of Robert Fuller, a 24-year-old black man found hanging from a tree near City Hall, igniting alarm in the community.
Authorities initially said the death appears to be a suicide but the investigation is ongoing, and coroner’s officials have yet to complete a full autopsy.
The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s announcement that the death was possibly a suicide was immediately met with outrage from community members during a news conference Friday.
Some yelled, “that’s a lie” and “get another coroner.” One person criticized officials as being quick to say it appeared to be a suicide before a full autopsy was completed.
The city of Palmdale released a statement Saturday, supporting the calls for an independent investigation and autopsy for Fuller.
“The City of Palmdale is joining the family and the community’s call for justice, and we do support a full investigation into his death. We will settle for nothing less than a thorough accounting of this matter,” the statement read.
Fuller, who a passerby found Wednesday in the 38300 block of 9th Street East, was described as “a sweet young man” who grew up in the Antelope Valley with a supportive family.
“It wasn’t no suicide,” his cousin, Robert Boyer, told KTLA. “He didn’t kill himself. He wasn’t that type of person.”
The case has received national attention and impassioned reactions online, with more than 128,400 people signing a Change.org petition demanding a full investigation and the release of surveillance footage.
An online fundraiser to help Fuller’s family with burial expenses raised more than $157,600 Saturday, far surpassing its goal of $100,000.
During Saturday’s rally, a growing crowd of demonstrators came together for a moment of silence, raised their fists in solidarity and marched from the park where Fuller’s body was found to the sheriff’s station, the Associated Press reported.
Some could be seen kneeling and holding up signs saying “Justice for Robert Fuller.”
Diamond Alexander, Fuller’s sister, spoke to the crowd in the courtyard behind Palmdale’s City Hall, the Los Angeles Times reports.
“We want to find out the truth on what really happened,” she said. “Everything they told us is not right. We just want the truth. My brother was not suicidal. He was a survivor. He was street smart.”
The death comes as the country reels from the in-custody death George Floyd in Minneapolis and amid international Black Lives Matter protests against police brutality.
Los Angeles County saw more than two weeks of massive protests to decry police violence against people of color.
Black Lives Matter co-founder Patrisse Cullors took to Instagram to call for people to march and rally for answers outside Palmdale City Hall Saturday.
Anyone with information about Fuller’s death can reach the Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau at 323-890-5500.
Editor’s note: If you are feeling distressed or concerned for a loved one’s wellbeing, help is available through the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255. It provides free and confidential emotional support 24 hours a day, seven days a week. You can also call a loved one, member of the clergy or 911.
The California Peer-Run Warm Line also offers free support for nonemergency mental health issues, and can be reached at 855-845-7415 on 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays, and 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sundays.