LITTLEROCK, Calif. – A 24-year-old Black man found hanging from a tree at a park in Southern California was remembered Tuesday as a cheerful young man who loved music, sports, video games and spending time with family.
Relatives, friends and community members attended the funeral of Robert Fuller. A coroner says it appears he may have taken his own life, but family members and friends fear he might have been lynched.
Days after his death, more than 1,000 people turned out for a protest and memorial around the tree where the body was discovered about 40 miles (64 kilometers) north of Los Angeles.
At the funeral Tuesday, his sister, Angel Magee, laughed as she recalled how much her brother could eat. She said when she wanted to see him, she would start cooking.
“All I had to do was bribe him with food, and he´d come around,” Magee said.
Fuller´s gold-colored casket was draped with white flowers and placed at the front of the pulpit at Living Stone Cathedral of Worship in Littlerock.
Mourners at the church wore masks because of the coronavirus pandemic. The service was filled with music and streamed online.
Fuller’s body was found June 10 in the high desert city of Palmdale. Initial findings that it was likely a suicide led to protests and calls for an independent investigation.
The FBI and U.S. Department of Justice are monitoring ongoing probes by sheriff”s departments in Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties.
Jamon Hicks, an attorney for the family, delivered a tribute at the funeral and criticized the initial probe that indicated Fuller had killed himself.
“How do you make it a suicide without analyzing the rope? How do you determine it was a suicide before the toxicology report comes back?” he asked.
Hicks connected the case to the Black Lives Matter movement sweeping the nation.
“It´s about demanding fairness, it´s about demanding equality, it´s about demanding respect,” he said.
Dr. Jonathan Lucas, chief medical examiner-coroner in Los Angeles County, said no signs of foul play were found at the scene – only a rope and a backpack.
“The initial report appeared to be consistent with a suicide but we felt it prudent to roll that back and continue to look deeper,” Lucas said a week after the death.
A smiling Fuller was shown at the funeral in photos and videos displayed on big screens, including one clip of him dancing in front of the White House.
“You could tell that he was happy. You could tell that he was full of life,” Hicks said.
Longtime friend Chad Bellows remembered Fuller as a “positive dude” who “lit up a room with a smile.”
Weber reported from Los Angeles.