By ELLA TORRES, ABC NEWS
(PALMDALE, Calif.) — The death of a 24-year-old Black man who was found hanging from a tree was confirmed to be a suicide, authorities said Thursday at a press conference.
Los Angeles Sheriff’s Commander Chris Marks said that there were no signs of a struggle or defensive wounds upon discovering Robert Fuller’s body on June 10 in a park near City Hall in Palmdale, California.
Marks also said that the rope and fabric tied to the tree branches were only accessible from a position in the tree, which he said suggested meant that Fuller had not been hoisted.
There were also no signs that Fuller attempted to remove the ligature from his neck, according to Marks.
Marks outlined other instances of prior mental health struggles, including in 2017 when a hospital in Arizona diagnosed him with having auditory hallucinations and claimed that he said he wanted to put a gun to his head.
Fuller also allegedly tried to set himself on fire in February 2020, according to Marks, and the incident was investigated by the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department.
A year before that, Marks said Fuller admitted himself to a California hospital, saying he heard voices telling him to kill himself.
Fuller’s family has previously said they are seeking an independent investigation and autopsy. The family was “enraged” that “the Sheriff’s Department immediately declared his death a suicide,” family attorney Jamon R. Hicks said in a statement in June.
“For African-Americans in America, hanging from a tree is a lynching. Why was this cavalierly dismissed as a suicide and not investigated as a murder?” Hicks said. “We want complete transparency. To that end, the family should choose the pathologist to conduct the independent autopsy.”
Fuller’s death came amid widespread protests against police brutality in the wake of George Floyd’s death. Fuller was also the second Black man found hanged in Southern California in a short period of time. Malcolm Harsch, a 38-year-old homeless man, was found in a tree on May 31 in Victorville, a desert city in San Bernardino County east of Palmdale.
Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva expressed his condolences to the Fuller family and urged officials to prioritize funding for mental health.
“I want to call on the Board of Supervisors to properly fund mental health treatment centers, psychiatric beds at the facility because they’re always running overcrowded, insufficient. … We do not have the resources to provide care to all the ones who desperately need it,” Villanueva said.
If you are in crisis, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting TALK to 741-741.
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