The Los Angeles County Fire Department found a man hanging from a tree in front of Palmdale City Hall on June 10. The man was later identified as Robert L. Fuller, and his death was initially listed as a suicide.
Palmdale locals voiced their concerns, however, as many did not believe that a suicide should have been determined without an investigation. City officials publicly addressed the death in a city hall press conference May 12, and apologized for the initial suicide filing. Local officials then looked deeper into Fuller’s death.
Sheriff Alex Villanueva spoke about the investigation approach on the L.A. Weekly Weekly podcast, saying that they had initiated a “death investigation.”
“The coroners are going to do their own investigation, outside of ours and determine the cause of death… and our job is to determine the why and the how,“ Villanueva told L.A. Weekly.
Sheriff Villanueva said that the investigation is not being taken lightly as their homicide bureau, the Civil Rights Division of the FBI and Attorney General Javier Becerra have all been tasked with being involved and monitoring the investigation.
“Our homicide bureau is one of the premiere homicide bureaus/investigative units in the entire nation,” Villanueva said on the podcast. “They’re named the bulldogs for a reason.They are tenacious, they never let go and they’re going to keep digging and digging until they find the truth.”
Los Angeles County Medical Examiner Jonathan Lucas said a full autopsy was performed on Fuller on June 12 and the family is awaiting the results. Fuller’s medical history will also be looked into, not only from California, but from Arizona and Nevada as Fuller also spent time in those states.
While addressing the death of Fuller, Los Angeles Sheriff’s Captain Ken Wegener listed the procedures they plan on conducting for the investigation, the first being forensics on the rope that was used, including an analysis of the knot structure.
Wegener added that not much was found on scene other than a rope, a backpack and “the contents in his pockets.”
While there were no video cameras on the City Hall building, Wegener said they plan to retrieve any video evidence in the area.
A key component of the investigation will revolve around Fuller’s cell phone, which has been retrieved for “cellular analysis.”
Sheriff Villanueva said a lot of these measures are being taken out of “an abundance of caution.”
“It’s about transparency,” Villanueva said. “We want to make sure we bring closure to the Fuller family and we get to the bottom of the issue. When we have the results we’ll make sure we present them so everyone can see them.”