FBI Reviewing Investigations Into The Deaths Of Two California Black Men Found Hanging From Trees 50 Miles Apart
The families of the two men say neither of them were suicidal.
June 16, 2020 at 3:18 pm
As the community demands answers after two Black men were found hanging from trees in two different California cities, federal agencies are reviewing investigations into their deaths, NBC News reported.
Robert Fuller, 24, and Malcolm Harsch, 38, were both found, on two separate occasions, hanging from trees in Palmdale and Victorville, California, respectively. Their families have said that neither man was suicidal.
Despite the initial rulings of suicide, the FBI, the U.S. attorney's office for Central California and the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division "are actively reviewing the investigations."
Officials say Fuller's death was ruled as an apparent suicide although they are still looking into the case, as Blavity previously reported.
"The initial reports appeared to be consistent with a suicide," Dr. Jonathan Lucas, chief medical examiner-coroner for Los Angeles County, said. "But we felt it prudent to roll that back and continue to look deeper."
While Fuller's family awaits final results from the toxicology report and additional evidence, his sister said they "just want to know the truth."
In the span of a few days, both Robert Fuller and Malcolm Harsch were found hanging from trees in Southern California cities about 50 miles apart.
There must be full and immediate investigations into their deaths. pic.twitter.com/KsF16dxpaO
— African American Policy Forum (@AAPolicyForum) June 13, 2020
Officials said there was no one in the area when Fuller's body was found on June 10 and that they will be examining the rope used in the hanging.
Authorities are also searching for surveillance footage and will attempt to locate the witness who first spotted Fuller the night of his death. They will also review his medical history and cellphone.
"Hopefully, with this death investigation, we'll answer all of the questions and we'll get full closure to what happened here. It is our interest to make sure that we leave no rock unturned," Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva said.
Harsch was found hanging near a homeless encampment on May 31, just 53 miles from where Fuller's body was found, NBC News reported.
People in the community attempted to perform lifesaving measures on the 38-year-old, but he was eventually pronounced dead by first responders.
“We are really just trying to get more answers as to what happened. My brother was so loving, not only to his family but even strangers. It is not like him,” Harsch's sister Harmonie told The New York Times.
Similar to Fuller, Harsch's death was initially ruled an apparent suicide and the sheriff's office said there wasn't any evidence leading investigators to suspect foul play.
Protesters in Southern California are demanding officials continue digging deeper into the deaths of the two men, as their deaths bear similarity to those of lynching victims, the Rolling Stone reports.
On Monday, the L.A. County Coroner's Office withdrew its initial ruling of suicide until an additional investigation has been completed.
Villanueva said officials will work together to determine if the two deaths reveal any similarities or "civil rights violations played a role."