A search for answers after deputies kill brother of Black man found hanging from tree

Maya Lau, Alene Tchekmedyian, Leila Miller, Matt Hamilton, Dorany Pineda

Terron Boone was distraught when his younger brother was found hanging from a tree in a park near Palmdale's City Hall last week.

The manner of death of 24-year-old Robert Fuller evoked ugly images of the nation's racist legacy of lynchings and sparked outrage when Los Angeles County coroner's and sheriff's officials quickly listed it as a suicide. Protests generated national attention and prompted local authorities to involve state and federal investigators.

Then on Wednesday, exactly a week after his brother's body was found, Boone, 31, was shot and killed by Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies in what authorities described as a wild shootout in this desert town north of Palmdale.

The shooting ended a bizarre series of events in which authorities accused Boone of pistol-whipping, imprisoning and threatening a former girlfriend over a weeklong period.

It is unclear what, if any, connection Boone's shooting had to his brother's death, and many questions remain.

But the back-to-back tragedies have heightened an already tense environment coming amid a national furor over the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody and other racial injustices in the Antelope Valley and beyond.

“Another name. Who wants another name? Another hashtag. Terron, his brother, another name," Isabele Flax, a 24-year-old activist from Lancaster, said at a news conference Thursday demanding justice for Fuller. "Who cares the circumstance? It doesn’t even matter what he did anymore. It doesn’t matter what they do anymore. It does not matter."

A bullet went through the kitchen window of Joyce Chaney's ground floor Rosamond Garden Apartment.
A bullet went through the kitchen window of Joyce Chaney's ground floor apartment in a complex where Terron Boone was fatally shot by deputies. (Irfan Khan/Los Angeles Times)

Friends of Boone said they could not reconcile the man they knew — a fun-loving “fashion junkie” who uplifted people with his hip-hop music — with the violent crimes he was charged with committing and the way he died.

Some friends say that he was greatly disturbed by his brother's death.

Tony Storey, who said he’d been friends with Boone since they were both around 16 in Palmdale, said he reached out to Boone after hearing about Fuller's death and never heard back. He later noticed Boone had unfollowed him and nearly all his friends on Instagram and set his account to private, which was uncharacteristic for him.

“That situation just pulled him back into the mud. That just pulled him back to feeling like, ‘Damn. I don’t have nobody no more.’ … He was probably in the mind frame of, ‘F everybody,’” said Storey, 32.

“He went silent about two weeks ago, and I believe it was because he was in extreme pain,” added another friend, Nyki Walker, 29.

Authorities said the investigation involving Boone began Monday after a report that he held the former girlfriend, with whom he had an on-and-off relationship, at her home against her will. Sheriff's Lt. Robert Westphal said he had no information about Boone's motivations and that "so far this is a standalone incident."

Court records show that Boone was charged Tuesday with multiple criminal counts, including six counts of making criminal threats, four counts of abusing a cohabitant, two counts of false imprisonment and one count of assault with a deadly weapon. The alleged offenses took place over a seven-day period. A warrant was issued for his arrest.

The next day, Westphal said, undercover detectives trailed Boone in a blue SUV to an apartment complex in Rosamond, about 20 miles north of Palmdale in Kern County.

Joyce Chaney, 40, left, talks to the woman who was driving the car at the time of the deputy-involved fatal shooting.
Joyce Chaney, 40, left, talks to the woman who was driving the car at the time of the deputy-involved fatal shooting. The woman, right, was shot once in the chest and taken to a local hospital, where she was treated and released. (Irfan Khan/Los Angeles Times)

Detectives attempted a traffic stop, and the SUV stopped in the parking lot of the complex. Boone exited the car’s passenger side and began shooting, firing at least five shots toward the detectives, and striking the police vehicle’s hood and roof, Westphal said. Three detectives and a supervisor returned fire and shot him multiple times in the chest, killing him.

The woman driving the car, who also dated Boone, was shot once in the chest and taken to a hospital, where she was treated and released Wednesday night. Her 7-year-old daughter was in the back seat but was not injured in the gunfire, Westphal said.

Detectives recovered a semiautomatic handgun at the scene.

Surveillance video posted by the Rosamond Community Watchdog, a local news platform, showed multiple vehicles trailing a dark SUV into a housing complex parking lot. Voices repeatedly shouted, “Hands up!” before gunfire erupted.

None of the detectives or their vehicles were equipped with cameras, but investigators are trying to recover footage from Ring cameras and other home video systems in the area, Westphal said.

News of the shooting reverberated through the community, stirring emotions.

In the parking lot where he was killed, Boone's friends arranged dozens of candles in the shape of the initials "T.J." next to a bouquet of flowers. The woman who was driving the car with Boone sat on steps nearby and wept. A resident of the complex expressed frustration that a bullet pierced her kitchen window and could have struck her 12-year-old daughter.

“She could have easily been standing at that window at that moment making icees,” Joyce Chaney, 40, said. “Regardless of why they had to open fire or return fire, they should have taken into consideration being right here and facing the complex.”

Meanwhile, dozens of community members and activists gathered outside the office of L.A. County Supervisor Kathryn Barger in Lancaster to demand, among other things, the creation of a database of sheriff's deputies accused of harassing, intimidating and racially profiling Antelope Valley residents. Online, members of the Sheriff Civilian Oversight Commission asked for information about the deaths of both Fuller and Boone.

"How was this ruled a suicide, seemingly so quickly, when it looks like a lynching?" Commissioner Priscilla Ocen asked at the panel's virtual meeting of Fuller's death.

Walker said she used to date Boone and had remained friends with him. She said he was a caring father who was pursuing his path as an artist, having recorded singles and music videos under the name TJ Goon.

“Terron was the sweetest guy I’ve ever dated, and he meant a lot to our community. A true soldier, a true friend and angel,” she said.

Walker said Boone had been close to his brother and had been upset about his death. Both men had previously lost their mother in 2004.

Another ex-girlfriend, Elonda Holman, 27, said she and Boone co-parented their 9-year-old daughter, Nia, even though they were no longer partners. Boone sometimes worked in warehouses, Holman said. She said he recently had plans to move to Las Vegas, where she and their daughter live.

“Anyone who knows Terron knows his energy was so magnetic. His voice was really appealing,” she said. “His daughter is taking after him. They are natural performers.”

Holman said she waited to reach out to Boone after his brother’s death, wanting to give him space to grieve, a decision she now regrets.

“He lost his mom when he was about 16, so I knew him losing his brother would be really hard on him.”

Records show Boone had two separate terms in state prison. He served about a year in custody on a burglary conviction. Starting in 2015, he spent two years in prison after being convicted of robbery, corporal punishment on a child and obtaining or retaining aid unlawfully. In 2012, a woman who had an infant son with Boone successfully obtained a restraining order against him, citing domestic violence.

James Cooper, a 52-year-old resident of Rosamond Garden Apartments, which is connected to the parking lot where Boone was shot, said Boone had been his friend.

The two met about eight years ago in Lancaster, where he said Boone would spend time with a girlfriend who lived across the street from Cooper. They would sometimes smoke or get beers together.

Cooper was working on fixing a moped in the parking lot Wednesday when he heard a series of gunshots. At the time, he said, the lot was filled with children playing.

“There was nothing but children here,” he said. “You saw children running out.”

He’s not sure what to make of the fact that Boone’s death followed shortly after that of his half brother.

“It is so weird,” he said. “Everyone’s got conspiracies now. I don’t know how that plays out.”

Times staff writers Matthew Ormseth, James Queally and Richard Winton contributed to this report. Ormseth and Miller reported from Rosamond.