Police walk back claims of ‘likely suicide’ and reopen investigation into California hanging

The Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department reported the death of 24-year-old Robert Fuller in Palmdale, California, as a suicide last week, but now they’re walking back that conclusion and relaunching an investigation into the matter, LAist is reporting.

Fuller was discovered hanging from a tree less than two weeks after Malcolm Harsch, 38, was also found hanging from a tree in Victorville, which is about 50 miles east of Palmdale. The preliminary finding that ruled Fuller’s death as a suicide has sparked outrage from many who believe officials jumped to conclusions too quickly without enough evidence.

The initial finding was based on lack of evidence, said L.A. County Chief Medical Examiner-Coroner, Jonathan Lucas in a press conference. But now he wants to take a second look, saying “we felt we should look into it a little more deeply and carefully, just considering all the circumstances at play.”

Attorney General Xavier Becerra says his office will assist the Sheriff’s Department in investigating the case. The City of Palmdale and a number of politicians who represent the area have called on Becerra to oversee an independent investigation into Fuller’s death.

The FBI also plans to monitor the case, said Sheriff Alex Villanueva.

Family members of Fuller and Harsh have contended they believe the deaths were the result of lynchings, not suicide.

“Two young Black men who both families say had no history of depression, mental illness whatsoever, had everything to live for,” said activist Najee Ali at a news conference Monday in L.A. “I find it very strange they were hung within days of each other.”

Ali is also calling for an independent investigation into Harsch’s death.

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Megan Hamilton

Megan Hamilton has traveled extensively throughout the Southern United States, Mexico, and parts of Central America. A lifelong atheist, these travels have informed her political views. She currently lives in a remote location with a large herd of cats and four dogs.