LOS ANGELES (AP) — State and federal authorities will monitor the investigation into the death of a black man found hanging from a tree in the Southern California city of Palmdale, officials said Monday following weekend protests prompted by the initial determination of suicide as the likely cause of death.
The body of Robert Fuller was discovered around 3:30 a.m. Wednesday in a park near City Hall. An autopsy was conducted Friday and the Los Angeles County medical examiner-coroner’s office said the 24-year-old man appeared to have died by suicide.
The finding prompted outcry by his family, who believed he wasn’t suicidal, and community members who called for an independent investigation and autopsy. More than 1,000 people turned out for a protest and memorial Saturday around the tree where Fuller’s body was found about 40 miles (64 kilometers) north of Los Angeles.
Dr. Jonathan Lucas, the chief medical examiner-coroner, said the initial finding was the result of nothing at the scene indicating foul play. Investigators only found rope and a backpack in the park.
“The initial report appeared to be consistent with a suicide but we felt it prudent to roll that back and continue to look deeper,” Lucas said Monday at a news conference.
The coroner’s office is awaiting toxicology results, Lucas said. Investigators are also looking at Fuller’s medical history.
The state attorney general’s office and the FBI’s Civil Rights Division will monitor the investigation, which is being led by the Los Angeles County sheriff’s homicide bureau, Sheriff Alex Villanueva said.
Homicide detectives plan to analyze the rope and its knot, canvass the area for video footage, interview Fuller’s social services case worker and speak to anyone who had recently interacted with him.
They are also seeking to meet with Fuller’s family, authorities said.
Fuller’s family and friends described him as a peacemaker who was street-smart, loved music and video games, and mostly stayed to himself. Days before he died, he attended a Black Lives Matter protest, the Los Angeles Times reported.
Fuller’s sister, Diamond Alexander said her brother was not suicidal. “My brother was a survivor,” she said.