Investigation rules out lynching for death of US black man

Pallbearers carry Robert Fuller’s casket after his funeral in Littlerock on June 30. (AP pic)

LOS ANGELES: The death of a black man found hanging from a tree in California that prompted fears of lynching during last month’s anti-racism protests was ruled suicide on Thursday.

Robert Fuller, a 24-year-old found with a rope around his neck near Palmdale city hall, took his life after battling mental illness and suicidal thoughts since 2017, officials said.

“The medical examiner issued their final autopsy report and delivered it to the sheriff’s department, and deemed this case to be a suicide,” Los Angeles County detective Chris Marks told a news conference.

There was no evidence of trauma that could suggest others were involved, according to the coroner’s report.

“This, coupled with the existence of evidence of prior suicidal ideations and a history of mental health issues supports the conclusion of suicide,” it said.

Fuller’s death in Palmdale, around an hour’s drive northeast of Los Angeles, was initially and swiftly ruled a suicide, before officials backtracked and ordered a full investigation.

Thousands gathered the weekend after his death to demand a thorough probe, with Fuller’s family casting doubt on the possibility he would take his own life.

Fuller’s death hit the headlines as protests over police brutality and racism roiled American cities following the May 25 death of George Floyd while in custody in Minneapolis.

On May 31 another black man was found hanging from a tree in Victorville, just 50 miles east of Palmdale.

This was also found to be suicide.

Sheriff Alex Villanueva said Thursday that a “small segment of the community, and – unfortunately – a significant representation of county government elected leaders were trying to propel the narrative” of a botched initial investigation.

“But the overwhelming majority of the public trusts the sheriff’s department,” he told the news conference.

“And, as you can see, we complete an investigation and then we report on the results.”