The San Bernadino County Sheriff's Department is investigating the death of a Black man found dead hanging from a tree in Victorville after push back from his family.
Investigators confirm Malcolm Harsch, 38, was found hanging from a tree near a homeless encampment by the Victorville City Library on May 31.
Harsch's girlfriend allegedly called 911 and said he had hung himself. She said that others from the encampment had cut him down and tried to resuscitate him.
The San Bernardino Sheriff's Department made the preliminary determination that his death was a suicide and said that no foul play was involved. However deputies said they are still investigating the case as Harsch's relatives say they are doubtful he took his own life.
"He didn't seem to be depressed to anyone who truly knew him," Harsch's family told reporters. "Everyone who knew our brother was shocked to hear that he allegedly hung himself and don't believe it to be true. The explanation of suicide does not seem plausible."
His family members said investigators told them the father of eight and tattoo artist had blood on his shirt and was found with a USB cord wrapped around his neck. Henry Bennett said he has been Harsch's best friend for two years. Bennett said that while Harsch was homeless and sad because he missed his kids in the days leading up to his death, that he would never kill himself.
"I know my boy, he's not going to do nothing like that," said Bennett. "All he talked about was his kids."
Family members question also why it took the coroner 12 days to perform an autopsy. Activist Najee Ali is now calling for an independent investigation in what he calls a possible lynching.
"We do believe that foul play was involved," said Ali. "We do believe that white nationalism, white racism, white supremacy is on the rise because of the rise of Black Lives Matter."
Sheriff John McMahon said the California Department of Justice is getting involved in the death investigation. Officials are waiting on toxicology results before releasing a cause and manner of death.
About 50 miles away in Palmdale, protests and vigils are being held over the death of Robert Fuller, a Black man who was found dead June 10 hanging from a tree.
City and county leaders are now calling for an independent investigation into his death, after law enforcement said they suspected suicide, but family and friends don’t believe that explanation.
City News Service contributed to this report.