Hanging death of US black man ruled suicide

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Robert Fuller’s family were sceptical of the initial suicide finding

The death of a black man found hanging from a tree, sparking fears that he had been lynched amid US anti-racism protests, has been ruled a suicide.

Robert Fuller, 24, had a history of mental illness and took his own life, said officials in Palmdale, California.

A post-mortem examination had returned an initial finding of suicide, but this was rejected by Mr Fuller’s family, prompting a further investigation.

His death last month came amid protests over the death of George Floyd.

According to the Los Angeles Times, Mr Fuller had attended a Black Lives Matter protest on the eve of his death.

The fatality on 10 June in the high desert city of Palmdale, about 60 miles (96km) north of Los Angeles, shook the black community in the Antelope Valley.


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Media caption‘I’m tired of being afraid’: Why Americans are protesting

Some said they feared it could have been a lynching, a murder by a mob with no due process or rule of law. Across the US, thousands of African Americans were lynched by white mobs, often by hanging or torture, in the 19th and 20th Centuries.

Amid dissatisfaction over local authorities’ conclusion of suicide, it was announced last month that the FBI’s civil rights division would review investigations into the deaths of Mr Fuller and another black man in similar circumstances in southern California.

Mr Fuller’s family described him as someone who enjoyed music and video games, and insisted he would not have taken his own life.

Thousands of protesters who gathered the weekend after Mr Fuller’s death demanded a thorough investigation.

On Thursday, Los Angeles sheriff commander Chris Marks told a news conference that Mr Fuller had gone to a California hospital in February 2019 and said he was hearing voices telling him to kill himself.

He also said that Mr Fuller was treated at a hospital in Nevada last November for suicidal ideation.

“The medical examiner issued their final autopsy report and delivered it to the sheriff’s department, and deemed this case to be a suicide,” Cmdr Marks said.

The investigation found no evidence of foul play, he added.

The other case that attracted widespread attention was that of Malcolm Harsch, 37, who was found hanging from a tree at a homeless encampment in Victorville, 50 miles east of Palmdale, on 31 May.

Local officials said his death was probably a suicide.

More on the US protests

If you want to talk to someone about the issues raised in this piece, you can call the US National Suicide Prevention Lifeline on 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting TALK to 741741.

You can call the UK Samaritans Helpline on 116 123 or visit samaritans.org.

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