VICTORVILLE (CBS/AP) — Malcom Harsch, the 38-year-old Black man found hanging from a tree near a Victorville library last month, died from an apparent suicide, the San Bernardino Sheriff’s Office said Friday.
Harsch was found May 31 in a dirt field in Victorville, a desert city northeast of Los Angeles.
Surveillance video from a nearby vacant building that was played for reporters showed Harsch wrapping a blue electronics cable around his neck, tying the ends to a tree limb and then letting himself fall, the Riverside Press-Enterprise reported.
Harsch had been on suicide watch twice recently after being arrested on suspicion of minor crimes, San Bernardino County sheriff’s Sgt. Steve Allen told the paper.
Harsch’s family, which had seen the video, released a statement accepting that he died from suicide.
“It is with a heavy heart that we now know the cause and manner of death,” the statement said. It thanked investigators and everyone who supported the family, 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.”
Harsch’s girlfriend called 911 the morning of May 31 to report that he had hanged himself, according to a statement from the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department.
Allen said the woman told investigators that the two had broken up that morning over mutual accusations of infidelity, and the video showed him throwing donuts at the tent, the Press-Enterprise said.
Harsch hanged himself minutes later, it appeared.
People in the encampment later cut down Harsch. But efforts to revive him failed and he was pronounced dead at the scene.
An autopsy didn’t find any sign of foul play, the sheriff’s department said.
Detectives also obtained the surveillance video from the vacant building, and it “confirmed the absence of foul play,” the statement 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,” the statement added.
Najee Ali, a spokesperson for the family, issued a statement Friday night that said, in part:
“On behalf of the family of Malcolm Harsch, unfortunately it seems he did take his own life. The Victorville Police Department officials released new video evidence to family members. The family wants to sincerely thank everyone for their support and prayers.”
According to the department, Sheriff John McMahon has been in contact with the California Department of Justice and was working in cooperation with them as the investigation continued.
Harsch’s death came a week before another Black man was found hanging from a tree near the City Hall in Palmdale, about 40 miles away.
Robert Fuller, 24, who was found hanging from a tree last week in Palmdale. Initial findings that it was likely a suicide led to protests and calls for an independent investigation. The FBI and U.S. Department of Justice are reviewing the investigations into his death.
© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. and the Associated Press. All Rights Reserved