The death of Malcolm Harsch, a Black man found hanging from a tree in Victorville last month, has been deemed a suicide, officials said Friday.
Detectives obtained surveillance video from an empty building near the homeless encampment where Harsch was found hanging from a tree on May 31 between Circle Drive and Victor Street, according to the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department. The video confirms the absence of foul play, officials said.
“Although there remains no sign of foul play, the forensic pathologist is waiting for toxicology results before assigning the cause and manner of death,” a statement from the department reads.
Detectives showed Harsch’s family the surveillance video upon their request, officials said. The family had been skeptical about the hanging death being a suicide and had demanded an independent investigation.
“After reviewing the site and actual video footage with detectives, it is with a heavy heart that we now know the cause and manner of death,” said a statement issued by Harsch’s family, obtained by the Associated Press.
The statement also thanked investigators, adding, “We urge you all to continue your efforts concerning the hanging deaths of African Americans. If you or someone you know may be suicidal please seek help.”
People at the camp had seen Harsch’s body the day of the incident and cut him down from the tree, attempting to revive him, investigators said. His girlfriend called 911, stating Harsch had hanged himself.
She said she was with him earlier that morning, but had returned to her tent when others alerted her about the situation, according to the department.
Less than two weeks after Harsch died, 24-year-old Robert Fuller was found hanging from a tree at a park in Palmdale on June 10. The investigation into the circumstances of his death continues.
The two deaths sparked protests and community outrage about larger racial issues, with activists calling for police accountability and saying authorities failed to conduct comprehensive investigations before determining the two Black men took their own lives. Both incidents come as racial justice demonstrations continued nationwide in the wake of the Minneapolis police killing of George Floyd.
Editor’s note: If you are feeling distressed or concerned for a loved one’s wellbeing, help is available through the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255. It provides free and confidential emotional support 24 hours a day, seven days a week. You can also call a loved one, member of the clergy or 911.
The California Peer-Run Warm Line also offers free support for nonemergency mental health issues, and can be reached at 855-845-7415 on 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays, and 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sundays.