Friends and family gathered at the Living Stone Cathedral in face masks on Tuesday to celebrate the life of Robert Fuller, the 24-year-old Black man whose body was found hanging from a tree near Palmdale’s City Hall earlier this month. The service was a moment for his friends and family to remember him, but also to demand answers from authorities. Fuller’s death was initially ruled a suicide by the LA County Sheriff’s department, but that statement was retracted after a national outcry, and numerous local protests.
“If it hadn't been for a community like yourselves, they would have dismissed this young man,” family attorney Jamon Hicks said during the service. “How many other Robert Fullers do we not even know about?”
The ongoing coronavirus pandemic forced all service attendees to wear face masks. Everyone had their temperatures checked before emptying the church. Speakers on stage were socially distanced from each other, as was the choir. The remarks were sprinkled with parables from the Bible, and several rousing songs that brought attendees to their feet.
“Help me give Robert Fuller a hand of celebration, he shall not be forgotten, we will not turn the light off,” Bishop Kenneth Ulmer of Faithful Central Bible Church in Inglewood eulogized.
Some community members like Ulmer believe that Fuller’s death could have been a lynching done in retalitation for recent protests for racial justice. Fuller’s body was found hanging in a tree in Poncitlán Square June 10 near an American flag.
“It was a symbol of racist injustice, and it was out there for everyone to see. It was a statement of a system that made someone think they could get away with it,” Ulmer continued. “We can’t act like nothing happened.”
The Antelope Valley has a long documented history of racism. In 2007, the Ku Klux Klan left flyers in public areas. The U.S. Justice Department found that LA County housing officials and sheriff’s deputies actively worked to drive Black residents out of the area in 2015. The next year, three white men were charged with a hate crime after they attacked a group of Latinx people in a park. And just last year, several Palmdale teachers were suspended after a photo of them posing with a noose went viral.
Further driving community skepticism is the fact that Fuller’s half-brother, Terron Boone, was killed by Sheriff’s deputies just one week after Robert’s death.
“Why is the family hearing more from the press about their brother’s death than the Sheriff’s Department?” attorney Jamon Hicks said at the services. The family has retained Hicks’ services in an advisory role to complete an independent investigation into Fuller’s death.
At the service, Fuller was remembered by two close friends as a lifelong friend who constantly encouraged them. His sister, Angel Magee, shared that he was a goofball who loved video games and food. He had dreams of going into fashion or graphic design.
The family’s grief is not over yet. There is still another son to bury. As the family mourns, they’re still waiting for the results of Robert’s autopsy, and answers to their questions.