Police in California on Friday said a young Black man found hanging from a tree in a reported committed suicide, stirring outrage among community members who said authorities were too quick to draw conclusions about what could have been a hate crime.
The reaction to the death of 24-year-old Robert Fuller showed how high tensions around race and policing are running in the United States after George Floyd died in police custody in Minneapolis on May 25.
The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department (LASD) was still investigating the death of Fuller, who was found by a passerby hanging from a tree a block from the city hall in Palmdale, around 30 miles north of Los Angeles, at about 3:40 a.m. on Wednesday.
Captain Ron Shaffer told a televised community meeting on Friday that it appeared Fuller “died by suicide.”
That comment drew an angry response and chants of “speak the truth” and “no peace,” with audience members demanding to know why LASD called it a suicide when the coroner’s report said the case had been “deferred pending additional investigation.”
On social media, the hashtag #JusticeforRobertFuller trended on Twitter with users calling for a full investigation of what some speculated was a cover-up of a lynching.
Palmdale City Manager JJ Murphy said in a statement on Thursday he received confirmation Fuller‘s death was a suicide. He did not give details, but said many people in the community were “suffering extreme mental anguish” during the coronavirus pandemic.
A GoFundMe page set up by Fuller‘s family to cover funeral expenses had raised more than $110,000 by Friday afternoon. A message on it read “Thank you for standing with us during this difficult time.”
A number of celebs have turned to social media, calling for further investigation.
“Robert Fuller was found dead June 10, 2020, hanging from a tree outside City Hall Palmdale. Sign this petition to demand for a thorough and proper investigation,” Kim Kardashian wrote.
Robert Fuller was found dead June 10, 2020, hanging from a tree outside City Hall Palmdale. Sign this petition to demand for a thorough and proper investigation #JusticeforRobertFuller https://t.co/czUqCrmE8m
— Kim Kardashian West (@KimKardashian) June 12, 2020
Viola Davis shared information on who to contact directly to demand a deeper investigation.
View this post on Instagram
#RobertFuller was murdered in Palmdale, California. Fuller was found hung from a tree in front of Palmdale City Hall Wednesday morning (June 10, 2020). Urge city officials to investigate Robert Fuller’s death. Do not let his death pass silently. link to his family’s gofundme: https://t.co/ZADsUYpFsP EDIT: Please call Lt. Brandon Dean of the Los Angeles Co. Sheriff’s Office Homicide Bureau +1 (323) 890-5500 and request a thorough investigation into Robert Fuller’s death. #justiceforrobertfuller 🔁@1800balboa
See more celeb reaction below:
😞 ruled a suicide? Are they not even gonna open an investigation? We need #JusticeforRobertFuller 🙏🏽❤️
— Becky G. (@iambeckyg) June 13, 2020
TW: ***violence and racism.***
This young man is Robert Fuller. He was found hanging from a tree yesterday in CA. Police have dismissed it as suicide. We all call bullshit. Please retweet. #RobertFuller #BlackLivesMater https://t.co/siU4MMfSUa
— Jameela Jamil 🌈 (@jameelajamil) June 13, 2020
You’re telling me a black man hung himself in front of the biggest American flag in town, in front of city hall, around the corner from the sheriffs department, across from a fire department, no cameras & ruled it suicide same day? Yea… somethings not right #RobertFuller
— Marina Preciado (@oxminaox) June 12, 2020
If you or someone you know is in crisis and needs help, resources are available. In case of an emergency, please call 911 for immediate help.
The Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention, Depression Hurts and Kids Help Phone 1-800-668-6868 all offer ways of getting help if you, or someone you know, may be suffering from mental health issues.