Two Black men in Southern California were found hanging from trees, ten days and fifty miles apart from one another. Malcolm Harsch, in Victorville on May 31, and Robert Fuller in Palmdale on June 10. Eerily reminiscent of Jim Crow-era lynchings, and during a time of churning national racial unrest, virtually no one is accepting police explanations of suicide (in the case of Mr. Fuller) and no foul play (in the case of Mr. Harsch.) Quite the opposite, their deaths are being labeled lynchings by most who learn of them.
According to the New York Times:
The family of Robert L. Fuller, 24, disputed the authorities’ initial pronouncement that he died by suicide. The family of Malcolm Harsch, 38, is worried his death will also be ruled a suicide.
Mr. Harsch was found at 7 a.m. on May 31 near a homeless encampment in Victorville, Calif., where bystanders told the authorities he was living. There were no indications of foul play but the investigation was continuing, according to a spokeswoman for the San Bernardino County Sheriff-Coroner’s Department.
A passer-by discovered Mr. Fuller’s body hanging from a tree in Poncitlán Square, across from Palmdale City Hall, at around 3:39 a.m. on Wednesday, according to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.
Though the investigation was continuing, the authorities noted in their news release that “Mr. Fuller, tragically, committed suicide.” Mr. Fuller’s autopsy has not been completed, the authorities said.
At a news conference held by officials at Palmdale City Hall on Friday, residents made it clear that they did not trust that the local authorities would properly investigate Mr. Fuller’s death. They demanded an independent review and transparency.
“Why was it right here in public, in front of City Hall, next to a church, in front of a library?” one woman said. “Why was it like that? Who would do that? No black man would hang himself in public like that.”
Given everything we know, and continue to learn about police racism, and covering up of racist behavior, that distrust is more than warranted. California police's initial conclusions here are about believable and trustworthy as the report Louisville, KY police filed after Breonna Taylor's death. In that report, the pages were nearly empty, and the section for injuries was left blank. So, yeah. Until we hear and see otherwise, the more reasonable conclusion is that these two Black men's lives were stolen from them in the most gruesome way possible.
Members of the community have established a fund for Robert Fuller here.
Find information about planned protests surrounding Malcolm Harsch's death here.