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Officials don’t see foul play in hanging death of Black man in Victorville, but family has questions

A car drives past a roadside sign for the city of Victorville
A sign for the city of Victorville, where the body of Malcolm Harsch, 38, was discovered hanging from a tree outside the city library May 31.
(Christina House / Los Angeles Times)

Two weeks after a Black man’s body was found hanging from a tree near the Victorville City Library, the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department said Saturday that foul play was not suspected in his death.

The department also said that the investigation into the death of Malcolm Harsch, 38, is ongoing, according to a report in the Victor Valley News.

“There were no indications at the scene that suggested foul play; however, the cause and manner of death are still pending,” Sheriff’s Department spokeswoman Jodi Miller told the news outlet.

The Victorville Fire Department discovered Harsch’s body May 31 after receiving a dispatch call around 7 a.m., officials said. When firefighters arrived at the library, they found Harsch hanging from a nearby tree.

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In a statement sent to the Victor Valley News, Harsch’s family in Ohio said they find it hard to accept that his death was a suicide. They said that Harsch had recent conversations with his children about seeing them soon and that he did not seem to be depressed to anyone who knew him.

The family also said they were told that Harsch, at 6 foot 3, wasn’t dangling from the tree and that there was blood on his shirt. At the same time, there did not appear to be any evidence at the scene to suggest a struggle, they said. They also noted that his body sat at the San Bernardino County coroner’s office for 12 days before an autopsy was performed.

Many at Saturday’s memorial expressed anger and frustration at Robert Fuller’s death and what they see as a rush by authorities to label it a suicide.

“The explanation of suicide does not seem plausible,” the family wrote. “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.

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“We want justice, not comfortable excuses,” they wrote.

In the meantime, thousands of people gathered about 50 miles to the east in Palmdale on Saturday to mourn the death of another Black man who was found hanging from a tree near City Hall early Wednesday.

Authorities initially said they suspected suicide in the death of 24-year-old Robert Fuller, but then backed off that statement and ordered an autopsy. The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, which serves Palmdale, is investigating the cause of death.

Los Angeles County Supervisor Kathryn Barger on Saturday asked the state attorney general to conduct an independent investigation.


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