A previously unreported case of a black man found hanging in southern California has raised questions about foul play, after a similar death only 50 miles (80km) away received nationwide coverage.
The family of Malcolm Harsch, who was found dead on May 31 near a homeless encampment in Victorville, have expressed concern that law enforcement will rule the incident a suicide without conducting a proper investigation.
“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 in a statement published by local media.
San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department confirmed on Saturday that the 38-year-old was discovered hanging from a tree, and said an investigation was still ongoing. A spokeswoman for the department disclosed that there were no indications of foul play at the scene and that the “cause and manner” of the death are pending.
According to the family, the deputy who informed them about his death asked whether Harsch had a history of substance abuse and theorized that depression or anxiety stemming from the current Covid-19 pandemic may have caused him to take his own life.
Although the Harsch family initially remained quiet about the case, they decided to speak out following the death of 24-year-old Robert Fuller, who was found hanging from a tree in Palmdale – a city located about 50 miles away. City officials initially said the Fuller’s death appeared to be a suicide but stressed that an investigation is ongoing.The coroner’s office has yet to complete a full autopsy. Protesters gathered near Palmdale City Hall on Saturday to demand justice for Fuller. The demonstrators claimed that the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, which is handling the case, cannot be trusted.
Fuller’s death received immediate nationwide attention – but the same cannot be said of Harsch’s passing. Even at local level, it seems his death went largely unreported until now. Victor Valley News claims that Harsch’s family reached out to the outlet shortly after his death at the end of May. However, there appears to be no mention of Harsch’s death on their site until June 13.
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