Dozens of people gathered today to demand a full investigation into the death of a 24-year-old black man found hanging from a tree near Palmdale City Hall, and blasted city and sheriff's officials for quickly deeming it a suicide without exploring the possibility of a hate crime.
Robert Fuller's body was found with a rope around the neck, hanging from a tree just before 4 a.m. Wednesday in Poncitlan Square, according to Lt. Brandon Dean of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.
Dean said Thursday that all indicators point to suicide, but investigators were waiting for full autopsy results and information from the man's next of kin regarding past issues with mental illness.
Many people, including celebrities such as Kim Kardashian West, took to social media to demand a full investigation into the death, and Friday afternoon, dozens attended a conference with Palmdale Mayor Steve Hofbauer.
“We're working hard to try to figure out exactly what happened,” Hofbauer told the crowd. “I can't pull it out of a crystal ball what the coroner and the sheriff's department is going to find here,” Hofbauer said.
Hofbauer said investigators were “trying to figure out what was going on with Mr. Fuller the last few weeks. Who were those people? Who was he with?”
Shaffer and Hofbauer said there is no video footage from the area where the body was found, even though it is across the street from City Hall -- an assertion that drew expletives from the crowd.
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.
“If anyone has information about Mr. Fuller or his recent travels, where he's been or where he's been staying, we encourage you to call law enforcement so we can get a complete picture of what happened,” Shaffer said.