Here’s What You Should Know About Recent Investigations Into 5 Black People Found Hanging From Trees
Their deaths have raised suspicion among the Black community, as they are reminiscent of 19th and 20th-century lynchings.
June 18, 2020 at 2:30 pm
In recent weeks, Black people have been found hanging from trees across several parts of the United States. Most of the cases have been ruled as suicides, however, the victims' loved ones believe there's more to their deaths.
Here’s what people should know about their cases and the status of their investigations.
TeTe Gulley, a 31-year-old Black trans woman, was found hanging from a tree in May 2019 in Portland, Oregon, Democracy Now reports.
While police initially opened up an investigation into Gulley's death, local authorities ruled it a suicide. Her family, however, still believes she was killed "due to homophobic and transphobic violence," Pink News reports.
Although she had multiple mental health diagnoses, her family said she was never suicidal and that police have ignored new information they have tried to bring, including a possible suspect.
A queer black trans women Tete Gulley, was found hanging from a tree in Portland, Oregon on May 27. Police are will not investigate due to “lack of public interest” and have ruled her death as a suicide. We want justice and we want answers! ✊????#BlackTransLivesMatter
— MEFeater Magazine (@mefeater) June 17, 2020
“They treat a lot of homeless people like they don’t mean nothing to this earth… in the homeless community, other people are willing to do hurt to more people, because they know their voices won’t be heard. They’re just homeless,” Gulley's brother Richard Bryant said.
The Portland Police Department released a statement saying that a detective has reached out to Gulley's family. Police have since opened an investigation into her death, Oregon Public Broadcasting reported.
If you would like to help bring justice to Gulley's family, you can sign the petition here. You can also call 503-823-0400 if you have information about her death.
In New York, 27-year-old Dominique Alexander's death has been ruled a suicide after he was found hanged in a Manhattan park last week, according to Democracy Now.
The Bronx resident's body was found along a path in Fort Tryon Park on June 9, the Gothamist reported.
— B ???? (@vonneslut_) June 16, 2020
Although the medical examiner listed his cause of death as "suicide by hanging," a New York Police Department spokesperson said the investigation is ongoing.
"He was definitely loved by his family and his community," his brother Keats Alexander told the New York Daily News.
His family had no comment following the medical examiner's ruling.
An unidentified Black teen was found dead in the parking lot of a Spring, Texas, elementary school, Global News reported.
The sheriff's office said a preliminary investigation and evidence indicate a suicide and that there were "no signs of foul play."
An official cause of death has not been determined pending an autopsy.
Robert Fuller, 24, was found hanging by a tree in Palmdale, California, as Blavity previously reported.
His death was initially ruled a suicide, but his family has been adamant in declaring Fuller was not suicidal.
“My brother was not suicidal. My brother was a survivor,” Diamond Alexander told the Los Angeles Times.
His body was found at 3:39 a.m., a time that his friend said he wouldn't normally be out.
Despite the ruling, Dr. Jonathan Lucas, the chief medical examiner-coroner for Los Angeles County, said it was "prudent to roll that back and continue to look deer."
Local authorities are searching for the witness who first spotted Fuller's body and will review his medical history and cellphone data.
Fuller's family is still awaiting toxicology findings and additional reports but said they "just want to know the truth."
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra shared that his office was sending independent investigators to review Fuller's death with the possibility of conducting their own investigation.
If you would like to help bring justice to Fuller's family, you can sign the petition here.
Just 53 miles away from where Fuller's body was spotted, Malcolm Harsch was found hanging near a homeless encampment on May 31 in Victorville, California, as Blavity previously reported.
Harsch's sister, Harmonie, told The New York Times that this was "not like him."
His family said he had recently spoken with his children about seeing them soon and did not seem depressed to those around him, the LA Times reports.
His death was ruled an apparent suicide, and the local sheriff's office said there wasn't any evidence of foul play.
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
“We take very seriously the concerns voiced by so many who fear that Malcolm’s death could be racially motivated, a hate crime, or a form of retaliation,” Mayor Gloria Garcia said in a statement, according to the Daily Press. “As City Leaders, we share these concerns; and a thorough investigation is being conducted. Malcolm Harsch’s life matters to our City.”
Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva said officials will dig deeper to determine if Harsch's and Fuller's deaths reveal any similarities or if "civil rights violations played a role."
The FBI, the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Central District of California and the Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division are "actively reviewing" the investigations into both Fuller's and Harsch's death.
“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,” the family said in a statement. “We want justice, not comfortable excuses.”
If you would like to help bring justice to Harsch's family, you can sign the petition here.
California police are investigating nooses found hanging from trees
In Oakland, California, law enforcement officials are investigating nooses hanging from at least five trees as a hate crime, The Guardian reported.
The nooses were spotted Tuesday in the area around Lake Merritt.
“Symbols of racial violence have no place in Oakland and will not be tolerated,” Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf said in a statement. “We are all responsible for knowing the history and present-day reality of lynchings, hate crimes and racial violence. Objects that invoke such terror will not be tolerated in Oakland’s public spaces.”
While the investigations into the deaths of Black people found hanging are ongoing, their deaths raise a heightened sense of suspicion. Their deaths all come on the heels of passionate Black Lives Matter protests where demonstrators demanded justice for the lives lost due to police brutality and at the hands of racist white people.