The FBI and other federal law enforcement agencies are now reviewing local investigations into the deaths of two Black men whose bodies were found hanging from trees in California.
Local officials said their investigations found no signs of foul play in the hanging death of Robert Fuller or the hanging death of Malcolm Harsch. Both men were discovered hanging from trees in two public venues. Their bodies were discovered ten days and fifty miles apart.
24-year-old Robert Fuller’s body was discovered hanging from a tree in a park in Palmdale, Ca last week. 38-year-old Malcolm Harsch’s body was discovered hanging from a tree on May 31 near a homeless encampment in Victorville, CA.
Both deaths were initially ruled suicides by local officials, but the men’s family and the local community demanded their deaths be investigated further.
On Monday, the chief medical examiner-coroner for Los Angeles County, Dr. Jonathan Lucas, gave a statement saying the cause and manner of Fuller’s death would not be determined until other evidence is in, including toxicology results.
“The initial reports appeared to be consistent with a suicide,” Lucas said. “But we felt it prudent to roll that back and continue to look deeper.”
Fuller’s family has said he was not suicidal. “We just want to know the truth,” his sister, Diamond Alexander, has said.
The final ruling on the cause and manner of Harsch’s death is also pending toxicology results, although the sheriff’s office said there was no evidence of foul play at the scene of his death. Harsch’s family has said they do not believe he committed suicide.
The FBI, the U.S. attorney’s office for Central California and the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division “are actively reviewing the investigations” into the two deaths, the FBI sad Monday.
Investigators will examine the rope as well as the knot to determine how it was tied, Los Angeles County sheriff’s homicide Capt. Kent Wegener said Monday.
They are also looking for any surveillance video and will try to contact the witness who found Fuller, and they will examine Fuller’s medical history and his cellphone, Wegener said.