A 24-year-old black man was found hanging from a tree in Palmdale, California, this week, sparking a massive public outcry and demands for a more thorough investigation after officials almost immediately described it as a suicide.
Robert Fuller was found by a passerby at about 3:39 a.m. Wednesday near Palmdale City Hall in Poncitlán Square, according to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.
Homicide investigators said they had found “no signs of a struggle” and suggested Fuller had died by suicide—an assessment echoed by city officials who attributed the death to emotional despair caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
“Sadly, it is not the first such incident since the COVID-19 pandemic began,” city officials said in a statement offering their “sincere condolences and sympathies” to Fuller’s loved ones.
“Many people are suffering extreme mental anguish and the City wants everyone to know that help is available,” City Manager J.J. Murphy said in a statement on Fuller’s death.
But critics have questioned why authorities were so quick to deem Fuller’s death a suicide, especially when an autopsy has not yet been completed.
And at a Friday afternoon press conference, attendees literally shouted down city officials who reiterated their claim that Fuller was depressed as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, with many in the crowd noting that Fuller had marched in a Black Lives Matter protest shortly before he was found dead.
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