As hundreds of protesters gathered in Palmdale, California, on Saturday to demand more investigation into the death of a 24-year-old black man found hanging from a tree, questions emerged about a similar death 10 days earlier and 50 miles away.
The family of Robert Fuller, whose body was discovered by a passerby on Wednesday, said they don’t believe he would take his own life. And now relatives of 38-year-old Malcolm Harsch, who was found in a tree in Victorville on May 31, say they are skeptical he killed himself outside the city library.
Harsch’s family came forward on Saturday to say they believe preliminary findings of suicide are just an easy way for authorities “to avoid any further media attention.”
“The deputy who called to confirm his death asked questions about drug or alcohol use, he made a statement about how the coronavirus has ‘hit people really hard’ and said that a USB cord was used to hang himself,” Harsch’s family said in a statement Saturday.
Harmonie Harsch, one of Malcolm's sisters, told The Daily Beast that police had not offered an explanation for why blood was found on Malcolm’s shirt.
“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,” the family said.
“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,” the statement read.
City officials in Victorville have said they are closely monitoring the investigation into Harshch’s death, which is still ongoing.
“There were no indications at the scene that suggested foul play; however, the cause and manner of death are still pending,” Sheriff’s Spokeswoman Jodi Miller was quoted as telling Victor Valley News.
In neighboring Los Angeles County, where thousands of people came together for a memorial for Fuller on Saturday, County Supervisor Kathryn Barger has asked Attorney General Xavier Becerra to carry out an independent investigation into his death near Palmdale City Hall.
Palmdale city officials sparked public outrage earlier this week after issuing a statement before an autopsy had been conducted suggesting Fuller was depressed as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
Police told The Daily Beast that while “early indications” pointed to suicide, they weren’t necessarily ruling anything out and are waiting for toxicology results.
Just like Harshch’s family has said they believe something doesn’t quite add up, Fuller’s family has said the conclusion drawn by authorities doesn’t feel right.
“We want to find out the truth on what really happened. Everything they told us is not right. We just want the truth. My brother was not suicidal. He was a survivor. He was street smart,” Fuller’s sister, Diamond Alexander, told the crowd at the memorial on Saturday.
If you or a loved one are struggling with suicidal thoughts, please reach out to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting TALK to 741741