Once was bad enough, twice, within nearly 50 miles of each other, within nearly a week, feels too much to be a coincidence.
Robert Fuller was found early Monday morning hanging from a tree in Palmdale, California. Local law enforcement has said:
"Although the investigation is on-going, it appears Mr. Fuller, tragically, committed suicide," the Sheriff's Department said in a Friday news release.
I haven’t read anything from the Sheriff’s Department that explains why they’re trying to say it was suicide while they haven’t even finished an investigation yet. Especially in the current setting of heightened racial tension in the US, I don’t know how anyone can hear of a black man hanging from a tree and not think of lynching.
According to the above-linked local news report, “the city” (I assume by that they mean the city government?) is at least now supporting an independent investigation.
The city of Palmdale on Saturday issued a statement "officially supporting the call for an independent investigation and an independent autopsy" of Robert Fuller, a 24-year-old man whose body was found hanging from a tree near City Hall earlier this week.
Yeah, the tree that Fuller was hanging from was at City Hall. An autopsy has been performed, but the cause of death has been deferred.
An autopsy was conducted Friday by the Los Angeles County coroner's office, which deferred the cause of death.
"When a cause of death is deferred, a deputy medical examiner is requesting additional investigation, including laboratory testing and witness statements, before providing a final determination on the cause and manner of death,'' a coroner's spokesperson said.
While I had learned earlier this week about Fuller, I hadn’t heard until now about another black man found hanging from a tree about a week prior on May 31st. 50-some miles away in Victorville, California, another black man named Malcolm Harsch was found hanging from a tree.
The tree Harsch was hanging from was also in public, this time near a public library. Similarly, local law enforcement seems to be trying to downplay it.
The San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department said foul play is not suspected in the death of a Black man who was found hanging in a tree in Victorville.
Harsch’s family doesn’t sound all that trusting of the Sheriff’s Department:
“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,” stated the family.
[...]The deputy who called to confirm his death asked questions about drug or alcohol use, he made a statement about how the coronavirus has “hit people really hard” and said that a USB cord was used to hang himself,” according to the statement.
You’ll have to forgive me for thinking it seriously weird to try to say that a black man committed suicide by hanging from a tree because of the coronavirus. Strangely, with Fuller’s death in Palmdale, “the city” tried to evoke the coronavirus in connection to Fuller’s death too:
"Sadly, it is not the first such incident since the COVID-19 pandemic began," the city said in a statement that included information on resources for mental health.
Two black men, within nearly 50 miles of each other, nearly a week apart, hung themselves each from a public tree, and then law enforcement/government in both cases seem to want to say that both are suicides connected to the coronavirus. With our country’s history of lynching black men, and our country being in a state of social unrest due to police violence against black people and protests against that police violence, I have a hard time thinking the deaths of Malcolm Harsch and Robert Fuller are coincidental.