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After Two Black Men Are Found Hanging From Trees In California, Families Seek Answers About Their Deaths
Malcolm Harsch was found dead in Victorville on May 31. Ten days later and 50 miles away, Robert L. Fuller was found hanging from a tree in Palmdale under what the families of both men believe are troubling circumstances.
The families of two Black men found hanging from trees 50 miles apart in California have questioned the notion that they killed themselves.
Both men—Robert L. Fuller and Malcolm Harsch—were found dead 10 days apart under what family members have described as “troubled” circumstances.
Robert L. Fuller’s death was initially described as a suicide by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department in a statement Friday after he was discovered hanging from a tree in Palmdale by a passerby just after 3:30 a.m. Wednesday.
The sheriff’s department wrote that although the investigation into the 24-year-old’s death was still ongoing, “it appears Mr. Fuller, tragically, committed suicide.”
But the department later backed off that statement and ordered an autopsy under mounting public pressure, The Los Angeles Times reports.
On Tuesday, Sheriff Alex Villanueva said on Twitter that Attorney General Xavier Becerra would be monitoring the department’s investigation into Fuller’s death.
“I take my commitment to transparency very seriously,” he said.
Fuller’s sister, Diamond Alexander, spoke at a rally in Palmdale Saturday saying she just wants to find out the truth about her brother’s final moments.
“Everything that they’ve been telling us has not been right,” she said, according to a video of the rally. “We’ve been hearing one thing. Then we hear another. And we just want to know the truth.”
Days earlier, Harsch was found dead near a homeless encampment in Victorville, California, according to The New York Times.
The 38-year-old was found on May 31 around 7 a.m. hanging from a tree near the camp, where Harsch had reportedly been living at the time.
While the investigation into his death remains ongoing, a spokesperson for the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department told The Victor Valley News that it did not initially look as though foul play was involved.
“There were no indications at the scene that suggested foul play; however, the cause and manner of death are still pending,” spokesperson Jodi Miller said.
Over the weekend, Harsch’s family provided a statement to the news outlet saying they were concerned that his death would be “labeled as a suicide” and said that was how it was initially described to the family on June 1.
“Amidst the current racial tension and following the protesting the night prior to his body being discovered we were truly troubled to learn of his passing, particularly how his body was discovered,” they said.
Harsch’s family, who are mostly in Ohio, went on to say that although they were unable to visit the site, they were told by authorities that Harsch had been found hanging by a USB cord.
However, the family said after speaking to other people “around at the time of the discovery” they learned that “his 6 foot 3 inches long body wasn’t even dangling from a tree.” They also said he had blood on his shirt.
“Malcolm had very recent conversations with his children about seeing them soon. He didn’t seem to be depressed to anyone who truly knew him,” his family said.
Sue Jones, the public information officer for the City of Victorville, told The New York Times that the Victorville Fire Department arrived at the scene to find bystanders performing CPR. The firefighters continued the efforts but were unable to revive him.
“We grieve for Malcolm’s family and extend our deepest condolences,” Jones said. “Malcolm Harsch’s life mattered.”
Harsch’s family doesn’t believe suicide seems “plausible” and said an autopsy wasn’t performed until 12 days after Harsch died.
“There are many ways to die but considering the current racial tension, a Black man hanging himself from a tree definitely doesn’t sit well with us right now,” they said. “We want justice, not comfortable excuses.”
Harsch’s sister, Harmonie Harsch, described her older brother to The New York Times as a talented tattoo artist who was very “loving” to everyone he met.
“We are really just trying to get more answers as to what happened,” she said.