Cops say two black men found hanged from trees in two separate incidents in Southern California took their own lives, but their families are pushing back on that, insisting neither one would've ended their lives that way. The New York Times reports that the body of 38-year-old Malcolm Harsch, said to be homeless, was found in the early morning hours of May 31 near a city library in Victorville. A San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department rep says there didn't seem to be foul play involved. His family said in a weekend statement that a deputy who called to inform them of his death noted Harsch had used a USB cord to hang himself, then mentioned that COVID-19 had "hit people really hard," suggesting Harsch had been depressed, per the Daily Beast. His family calls that a "comfortable excuse," noting suicide "does not seem plausible" and that blood on his shirt still hasn't been explained.
A police probe into his death is ongoing; his sister says she's conducting her own as well. "It doesn't sound right," she tells the Times, adding their family had been told an autopsy was done but that they weren't informed of the results. Meanwhile, about an hour away in Palmdale, in what the Cut notes as an "eerie resemblance" to Harsch's death, the body of 24-year-old Robert Fuller was found Wednesday hanged from a tree outside City Hall. His family similarly doubts the official explanation for his death as suicide; an autopsy hasn't yet been completed. The Daily Beast notes Palmdale officials had, as in Harsch's case, hinted Fuller was depressed about the virus. Both men's families, and others, remain skeptical. "No black man would hang himself in public like that," one local woman tells the Times. Per the Cut, some activists suspect the men were lynched, noting both the recent George Floyd protests and the location of the men's bodies in front of municipal buildings. (Read more hanging stories.)