In the space of two weeks amid protests, two black men have been found hanging from trees in California. Officials don’t suspect foul play, but families and friends fear they were killed.
Robert Fuller, 24, was found dead in the early hours of Wednesday, June 10, near Palmdale City Hall. Initial coroner’s office reports classed his passing as a suicide, but cause of death has been deferred pending a full autopsy and investigation.
Less than two weeks earlier, on May 31, 38-year-old Malcolm Harsch was found in a tree outside Victorville City Library, near a homeless encampment he was allegedly living in. He had blood on his shirt, and while the Sheriff’s Office doesn’t suspect anything nefarious, family members aren’t so sure.
Sue Jones, public information officer of the City of Victorville, explained that the local fire department took over from bystanders performing CPR on Harsch. After 20 minutes, he was declared dead. ‘We grieve for Malcolm’s family and extend our deepest condolence. Malcolm Harsch’s life mattered,’ Jones added, as per The New York Times.
San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department spokeswoman Jodi Miller told Victor Valley News: ‘There were no indications at the scene that suggested foul play; however, the cause and manner of death are still pending.’
Marsch’s family is concerned ‘his death will be labeled as a suicide, as this is what was communicated to us upon confirmation of his death’. Citing the current ‘racial tension’, they added it was disconcerning to learn he was found hanging from a tree in public – reminiscent of a lynching.
In a statement, the family wrote:
Everyone who knew our brother was shocked to hear that he allegedly hung himself and don’t believe it to be true as well as the people who were there when his body was discovered. The explanation of suicide does not seem plausible.
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. We want justice not comfortable excuses.
Fuller’s death has attracted a seismic reaction from the public, with a Change.org petition demanding a ‘thorough and transparent investigation.. providing all video surveillance from City Hall and the surrounding area’ racking up more than 232,000 signatures.
Initially, officials similarly cited the ‘extreme mental anguish’ of the current pandemic as an instigator in his death, The Daily Beast reports. ‘Sadly, it is not the first such incident since the COVID-19 pandemic began,’ homicide investigators added.
However, at a news briefing on Friday, June 12, one attendee shouted: ‘We have a history with nooses. We don’t like ropes around our necks. It was a message for the protest we had in Palmdale and Lancaster’.
Meanwhile, Republican Senator Rand Paul is stalling the Emmett Till Antilynching Act from being passed in the Senate, describing its language as ‘too broad’. The bill, named after a black teenage boy from Mississippi who was lynched in 1955, would finally make lynching – dubbed by Kamala Harris as ‘one of the great sins of America’ – a federal hate crime across the US.
If you have been affected by any of the issues in this article and wish to speak to someone in confidence, contact Stop Hate UK by visiting their website www.stophateuk.org/talk
The New York Times
Victor Valley News
The Daily Beast