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Feds to review investigations into two Black men found hanging in Southern California

Officials said they don't suspect foul play in the apparent hanging deaths in Palmdale and Victorville.
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LOS ANGELES — Federal law enforcement agencies, including the FBI, are reviewing investigations into the deaths of two Black men who were recently found hanging in Southern California.

Sheriff's officials have said there are no signs of foul play in the death of Robert Fuller last week in Palmdale, north of Los Angeles, or the death May 31 of Malcolm Harsch in Victorville, but investigations continue.

Fuller, 24, was found dead near Palmdale City Hall on Wednesday afternoon by a passerby, a sheriff's official has said, and his death was initially ruled an apparent suicide.

On Monday, Dr. Jonathan Lucas, chief medical examiner-coroner for Los Angeles County, said the cause and manner of 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."

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Fuller's family has said he was not suicidal. "We just want to know the truth," his sister, Diamond Alexander, has said.

Weekend protests and rallies have called on officials to conduct a thorough investigation.

Image: Robert Fuller memorial
People light candles during a vigil around a makeshift memorial outside City Hall in Palmdale, California, on June 13, 2020, at the tree where Robert Fuller was found dead.Apu Gomes / AFP - Getty Images

Fuller died as protests erupted across the nation and calls against racial injustice and for police reform grew louder after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25.

Harsch, 38, was found hanging from a tree near a homeless encampment late last month in Victorville, about 53 miles east of Palmdale, officials have said.

People in the encampment cut Harsch down and tried to perform CPR, and San Bernardino County sheriff’s deputies also attempted lifesaving measures, but Harsch died, the sheriff's department has said.

The ruling on the cause and manner of Harsch's death is also pending toxicology results, although the sheriff's office says there is no evidence of foul play. Harsch's family has said they do not believe he died by 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.

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said that his office is involved but that for now, his investigators will simply support the sheriff's department, The Associated Press reported.

Los Angeles County Fire Chief Daryl Osby said paramedics found Fuller hanging from a tree with no one else at the scene after they were called to a possible medical emergency around 3:30 a.m. Wednesday.

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.

Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva said Monday: "Hopefully, with this death investigation, we'll answer all of the questions and we'll get full closure to what happened here. It is our interest to make sure that we leave no rock unturned."