By: EMILY SHAPIRO, ABC News
(LOS ANGELES) — Los Angeles County officials are promising a thorough investigation into the death of a young black man who was found hanging from a tree.
Robert Fuller, 24, was found dead on June 10 in Palmdale, California. Nothing was found at the scene besides the rope, his backpack and the contents of his pocket, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Homicide Capt. Kent Wegener said at a news conference on Monday.
Though “initial signs seem to point” to suicide, and there was nothing to suggest foul play, officials “felt it prudent to roll that back and continue to look deeper, which is why currently the case is still deferred and under investigation,” the chief medical examiner for Los Angeles County, Jonathan Lucas, said at the news conference.
A complete autopsy was performed on June 12, Lucas said. Officials are awaiting toxicology results and are looking into Fuller’s medical history, Lucas said.
“We don’t have much to release at this time other than we’re going to continue to evaluate the evidence as it comes in, independently make an assessment into the cause and manner of death,” Lucas said.
Investigators will complete forensics on the rope and look into how the knot was tied, Wegener said. They are also analyzing Fuller’s phone and will look for any surveillance video that may have captured the scene, he said.
State Attorney General Xavier Becerra will review the investigation to make sure no rock is unturned, Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva said. The FBI is monitoring the investigation, the sheriff said.
Palmdale city officials said in a statement after the news conference that they are “gratified” the coroner’s office “has withdrawn their initial preliminary assessment of death by suicide.”
“We continue to request the State Attorney General and the FBI-Los Angeles Civil Rights division take an active role in the ongoing investigation,” city officials said in a statement. “The City of Palmdale will not rest until an exhaustive review of Mr. Fuller’s death has been completed and justice is given to him.”
Villanueva also said he would “have conversations” with the investigators in Victorville, California, about 50 miles from Palmdale, where a black man was found dead, hanging from a tree, on May 31, according to authorities.
“There were no indications at the scene [in Victorville] that suggested foul play,” the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department told ABC News this weekend. “The cause and manner of death are pending.”
ABC News’ Matt Fuhrman contributed to this report.
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