The FBI and the California attorney general's office are looking into the case of Robert Fuller, a 24-year-old African American male who was found hanging from a tree, to determine whether he died by suicide or was the victim of foul play. This comes a day after reports emerged that another black man was found dead in a similar fashion in a nearby city days before Fuller's death.
Robert Fuller's Death
Fuller, 24, was found hanging from a tree with a rope around his neck outside Palmdale City Hall in Palmdale, California, by a passerby early morning on June 10. Police said there were no signs of a struggle at the scene and reported Fuller's death as an apparent suicide but the cause of his death was deferred pending a full autopsy, which was completed on June 12.
The discovery of Fuller's body amid weeks of unrest and protests following the death of George Floyd resulted in community members demanding authorities to conduct a thorough investigation into his death and consider the possibility that it actually might have been a homicide.
Sheriff Alex Villanueva announced that the FBI and the attorney general's office will conduct a deeper probe into the "homicide" angle in a press conference on Monday. "They're gonna stick to it 'til they get to the truth of what happened," Villanueva said at the briefing.
County medical examiner Dr. Jonathan Lucas, who was also at the news conference, added that initially there wasn't any evidence or information to support that Fuller's death was anything other than suicide, but they decided that they should "look a little more deeply and carefully just considering all the circumstances at play."
No Chair Found at Scene, Rope Tied to Branch
Authorities claim that the only evidence found at the location was a rope, and his cellphone, which was recovered from his pockets and a backpack he was wearing. However, authorities did not find a chair or object that may have used to prop him up, according to authorities.
According to Lt. Brandon Dean of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department Homicide Bureau the rope was not thrown over the branch but tied to the branch, which suggests that somebody climbed up there and tied it.
The Sheriff's Department said that it will be conducting a forensic analysis of the rope - including the knot used. Authorities also said that they would continue to search for any videos that might show what happened the night Fuller was found dead.
The location where he was found hanging does not have any surveillance cameras, so authorities are trying to find footage from businesses nearby to determine whether he was alone or with somebody before his death. Dean noted that they are waiting for Fuller's toxicology reports to come in.
If Fuller had a "high level of a chemical that might have poisoned him or knocked him unconscious and allowed someone to drag him up there, it would give a new direction to the case," Dean said.
Another Black Man Found Hanging
Fuller's death came just 10 days after another African American man was found hanging from a tree in Victorville, California, located about 45 miles from Palmdale. Malcolm Harsch, 38, was found hanging from a tree near what has been described as a homeless encampment close to the Victorville City Library on May 31 at about 7am.
The San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department had said that although foul play was not suspected in Harsch's death, they are still investigating what happened.