Malcolm Harsh is a black man whose body was found hanging from a tree in Victorville, California. His family members are raising concerns about his death.
Some are drawing parallels between Harsch’s death and that of a second black man, Robert Fuller, 24, who was also found hanging from a tree in the same state, according to BET.
Authorities say they believe Fuller’s death was a suicide and that they don’t believe foul play was involved in Harsch’s, but some are not convinced. The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department announced June 12 that homicide investigators are still looking into Fuller’s death, although they believe he committed suicide. The cause and manner of death for Harsch had not yet been released as of June 13.
The bodies of Harsch and Fuller were found about 50 miles apart. Fuller was found hanging in Palmdale, California, a suburb of Los Angeles, on June 12. Harsch was found dead in Victorville on May 31. He was 38 years old.
Sue Jones, the public information officer for the City of Victorville, told The New York Times: “We grieve for Malcolm’s family and extend our deepest condolences. Malcolm Harsch’s life mattered.”
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Harsch Was Found Hanging in a Tree Near the Victorville Library
According to The Los Angeles Times, Harsch’s body “was found hanging from a tree near the Victorville City Library,” but the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department said “foul play was not suspected in his death.” ABC7 reported that Harsch’s body was found “near a homeless encampment.”
Heavy has reached out to the sheriff’s department for comment.
The Victor Valley News reported that on May 31, 2020, at about 7 a.m., the Victorville City Fire Department “was dispatched to the Victorville City Library at 15011 Circle Drive where they discovered 38-year-old Malcolm Harsch deceased nearby.”
According to the news site, on June 13, the sheriff’s department said the investigation was still active but foul play was not suspected. “There were no indications at the scene that suggested foul play; however, the cause and manner of death are still pending,” sheriff’s spokeswoman Jodi Miller told Victor Valley News, which added that Harsch’s body was “found hanging in a tree in Victorville.”
The New York Times reported that the Victorville Fire Department “found bystanders performing CPR on Mr. Harsch when it arrived at the scene” and tried to “restore Harsch’s heartbeat” but couldn’t do so.
Authorities now say that Harsch’s girlfriend called to report that “her boyfriend hanged himself,” Daily Press reported. “Although there remains no sign of foul play, the forensic pathologist is waiting for toxicology results before assigning the cause and manner of death,” Sheriff’s officials told that news site.
“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 Daily Press. “As City Leaders, we share these concerns; and a thorough investigation is being conducted. Malcolm Harsch’s life matters to our City.”
2. A Change.org Petition Is Demanding a ‘Full, Thorough Investigation Into Malcolm’s Death’
A Change.org petition calling for further investigation into Harsch’s death has gained more than 19,000 signatures.
“Malcolm Harsch was a 38 year old black man found hanging from a tree in Victorville, California near Victorville City Library on May 31, 2020 around 7 A.M. His death is getting little to no news coverage by local news, the article on his death was published 2 weeks later on June 13th, and San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department said foul play is not suspected in his death,” the petition begins.
During such a heightened time with the Black Lives Matter movement, there is reason to believe that Malcolm’s death was a lynching. His family has said in a released statement ‘his cause of death has not been released to the family yet but we are concerned that his death will be labeled as a suicide, as this is what was communicated to us upon confirmation of his death on the morning of June 1st. Amidst the current racial tension and following the protesting the night prior to his body being discovered we were truly troubled to learn of his passing particularly of how his body was discovered. He is an African-American man whose body was found hanging from a tree! The deputy who called to confirm his death asked questions about drug or alcohol use, he made a statement about how the coronavirus has ‘it people really hard’ and said that a USB cord was used to hang himself.’Furthermore, despite the investigation being active, the Sheriff’s department stating that there is no suspected foul play, doesn’t seem plausible as the family has stated, ‘As most of us are in Ohio, we weren’t able to physically go to the location where he was found dead but did speak to a few people who were around at the time of the discovery. We were told that his 6 foot 3 inches long body wasn’t even dangling from the tree. There was blood on his shirt but there didn’t appear to be any physical implications at the scene to suggest that there was a struggle or any visible open wounds at that time. His body sat at the San Bernardino County Coroner for 12 days before an autopsy was performed. We understand that Victorville is a small city and have been reminded regularly that San Bernardino is very busy (as if we aren’t patient enough for necessary answers) but feel that our brother’s death will be waived off as a suicide to avoid any further media attention. Malcolm had very recent conversations with his children about seeing them soon. He didn’t seem to be depressed to anyone who truly knew him. EVERYONE who knew our brother was shocked to hear that he allegedly hung himself and don’t believe it to be true as well as the people who were there when his body was discovered. The explanation of suicide does not seem plausible.
The petition concludes: “We demand the San Bernardino’s County Sheriff’s Department, and the Cities of Victorville and San Bernardino to conduct a full, thorough investigation into Malcom’s death. We demand justice to be served for Malcolm and his loved ones.”
3. Harsch’s Family Says Harsch Didn’t Seem Depressed & Suicide Wouldn’t Make Sense
Harsch’s family gave a statement to the Victor Valley News.
“Our brother Malcolm Harsch died on May 31st. His cause of death has not been released to the family yet but we are concerned that his death will be labeled as a suicide, as this is what was communicated to us upon confirmation of his death on the morning of June 1st,” the family said.
The family’s statement continued, “We were told that his 6 foot 3 inches long body wasn’t even dangling from the tree. There was blood on his shirt but there didn’t appear to be any physical implications at the scene to suggest that there was a struggle or any visible open wounds at that time. His body sat at the San Bernardino County Coroner for 12 days before an autopsy was performed… Malcolm had very recent conversations with his children about seeing them soon. He didn’t seem to be depressed to anyone who truly knew him.”
You can read the full statement here on the Victor Valley News website.
A relative wrote a lengthy post on Facebook. It reads:
Please share this! My dad, my sisters, myself & everyone that loves him needs answers & justice!
Malcom Harsch 38 was found dead, hanging from a tree in Victorville, California on May 31, 2020. The Victorville police department has been attempting to report his death as a suicide to the family. A detective from their department called and stated that there was “no foul play suspected” even prior to the autopsy, which was not performed until 12 days after his body was found! Malcom Harsch was 6 ft 3in tall and was found with blood on his shirt, hung by a USB cord, just 4 hours after he was reportedly stopped by a Victorville police officer! THIS WAS NOT A SUICIDE!
There have been at least 3 other reports of suicide by hanging of Black men near the Victorville, Ca area since 2012, including the June 10, 2020 hanging of Robert Fuller in Palmdale, California, which is only 52 miles away from Victorville, Ca, where Malcom Harsch’s hanging body was found.
Mr. Harsch’s family is looking for answers! These hangings of Black men in such close perimeter, all ruled suicide cannot be coincidental! Assistance from any news outlet, blog, or social media source is appreciated. Malcom Harsch’s Black Life Mattered! Please help us find the justice Malcom deserves.
Harmonie Harsch, Harsch’s sister, told the New York Times that the family wasn’t given a cause of death and said, “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.” She wrote on Facebook, “Mr. Harsch’s family is looking for answers! These hangings of Black men in such close perimeter, all ruled suicide cannot be coincidental! Assistance from any news outlet, blog, or social media source is appreciated. Malcom Harsch’s Black Life Mattered! Please help us find the justice Malcom deserves.”
4. Harsch Was From Ohio & Loved Creating Tattoos
Harsch’s family gave some background on Harsch to the New York Times, saying he was from Ohio, moved to California 14 years ago and, according to his sister, “loved doing tattoos, he was very artistic.”
According to Harsch’s Facebook page, he wrote, “I am who i am” and said he lived in Victorville and was from Cincinnati. His most recent post was May 25, but it’s been removed or privatized. That same day he shared a picture of chocolates molded into tools as a possible Father’s Day gift. He shared a graphic with a phrase from Maya Angelou, “Never make someone a priority when all you are to them is an option.”
On May 21, he wrote, “Out to move a bag or two plus is the motive today and so forth…. Heavyweights may fall but get up can’t let the weight of the world weigh us down….. And to my baby disregard my post earlier you should know better than to believe that I would do such … Love you.” That same day, he also wrote, “How you expect me to respect you when you don’t have no respect for yourself.”
On March 22, he wrote, “My apologies for the late post but I’d like to wish the love of my life a Happy 41st birthday….love you baby …be there soon 😘😘😘😘😘.” On March 1, he wrote, “Been 14 yrs and some change since I moved from my home Ohio haven’t seen one person from back home since… Siblings…kids my dad and many others until yesterday when my lil brother … pulled up on me… Although it may have only been a 20-30 minutes of seeing lil bro it felt good to have a close family member pull up on me….. Love you lil bro…. For the few years they got you stationed out here we gone bond like neither one of us vacated Ohio.”
In January, he wrote, “Beginning today I will have hand crafted valentines day cards for sale $5 and up as well as Kobe Bryant murals/collages poster board size from $75+ taking special orders as well… Hmu serious inquiries only.”
In one post, he wrote that he had a daughter and grandson. In 2019, he wrote, “Top of the day world …. before I partake in any activities today allow me to take a second to wish my twins Marquees and Taquee a happy 2nd birthday. ….Daddy loves yall to the moon and beyond boundaries. …Happy birthday my lil men.”
5. Homicide Detectives Are Investigating the Death of Robert Fuller, but Sheriff’s Officials Say it ‘Appears’ That Fuller Committed Suicide
— tay (: (@taylorleigh79) June 15, 2020
According to a news release from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, “LASD Homicide Detectives” are now investigating the death of Robert Fuller.
“On June 10, 2020 at approximately 3:39 A.M, a passerby noticed a male (later identified as 24 year-old Robert L. Fuller) hanging from a tree in the 38300 block of 9th Street East, in the city of Palmdale,” the release states. “Personnel from the adjacent fire station (Station 24) responded and determined the victim was deceased.”
— Maggie Pittman (@maggie_pittman) June 15, 2020
According to the June 12 release:
Deputies established a containment of the scene and representatives from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau and the Los Angeles County Coroner’s Office responded to the scene. Although the investigation is on-going, it appears Mr. Fuller, tragically, committed suicide. A full autopsy is anticipated in the immediate future. Investigators have been in contact with Mr. Fuller’s family and are continuing their investigation into the circumstances surrounding Mr. Fuller’s death.
Anyone with information about this incident “is urged to call Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau at (323) 890-5500,” the release says.
There is also a petition alleging that Fuller’s death was murder.