Harsch’s Death Was Suicide And Not A Lynching As Feared, Security Video Shows

Malcolm Harsch, whose formerly mysterious death on May 31 prompted what are now recognized as spurious accusations that he had been lynched, died by his own hand, it was confirmed by multiple sources including a video of the fatal incident.
Harsch’s death came in the aftermath of the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25, and amid growing unrest nationally over that incident and the general issue of police brutality, especially as employed against African-Americans. That unrest, which manifested as protests which escalated into widespread looting and riots in many urban settings across America, formed a backdrop for questions about what had befallen Harsch, a 38-year-old African-American who was living within a homeless encampment near Victor Street and Circle Drive in Victorville next to where he was found hanging from a tree with a cord around his neck.
As incomplete information about what had occurred emerged, suggestions that Harsch had been murdered turned to speculation of a lynching, which then devolved into rampant reports to that effect.
A coincidental circumstance further west in the Mojave Desert across the San Bernardino/Los Angeles County line in Palmdale on June 10, in which Robert Fuller, a 24-year-old African-American man was likewise found dead hanging in a tree, prompted widespread reports and speculation that a serial killer targeting African-American men was on the loose in the midst of the contretemps that had grown out of the George Floyd killing.
The confluence of the Floyd/Harsch/Fuller events had the potential for touching off a major social conflagration, given the tinderbox of animosity on both sides of the racial divide as police forces nationwide, chastened by the public reaction to the Floyd killing, grew less aggressive in their tactics, even in the face of looting and other lawlessness that accompanied the protests, leading to an impromptu culture of vigilantism among non-African-American citizens concerned about their physical safety, damage to their property or theft during rioting and looting. That vigilantism led to the open carrying and in some cases the brandishing of firearms among counter-demonstrators, including two highly publicized incidents in San Bernardino County.
On Wednesday, June 17, what some feared would be the catalyst for the racial inferno that many dreaded occurred when Fuller’s half brother, Terron Jammal Boone, was killed by deputies with the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department in Rosamond, just across the Los Angeles County line at the extreme western extension of the Mojave Desert in Kern County. Boone was fatally wounded in a hail of gunfire after he himself allegedly fired on deputies.
With tensions at fever pitch, the following day, representatives of the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department contacted members of Harsch’s family, some of whom had previously openly suggested that Harsch had been lynched, and showed them the first of two surveillance films which electronically documented Harsch’s suicide. The second of those surveillance films was shown to them earlier today.
In one of those videos, taken from the vantage of a nearby empty building on Victor Street, Harsch, in a white shirt, is seen close to two tents in the homeless encampment. He can be seen hurling objects at one of the tents.
According to authorities, at that point Harsch was engaged in an argument with his girlfriend, who was inside the tent, and the items he threw at the tent were donuts.
At 5:57 a.m., according to the timestamp on the video, Harsch can be seen wrapping a blue cord, what investigators said was a high definition media interface cable, one consisting of copper wire surrounded by insulation and rubberized-plastic, around his neck. He then walked toward a tree close by, wrapped the other end of the cable around one of the tree’s branches, and dropped downward. The branch bends, apparently from the downward force of Harsch’s weight tugging on it. His body at that point is below the video’s visual field. The branch and other parts of the tree can be seen rapidly trembling for several minutes before becoming still.
According to the video timestamp, Harsch’s last moments of life on this earth took place around 6 a.m. May 31.
The sheriff’s department would normally not make such disturbing imagery public, officials said, but it was felt that given the circumstances, something needed to be done to “dispel the myth” that Harsch had been lynched by a person or persons unknown.
Harsch’s most proximate known relative was his brother, De’Avery Richardson, a soldier stationed at the U.S. Army installation at Fort Irwin, north of Barstow. A teleconferencing session with Richardson and other members of Harsch’s family in Ohio was arranged by the sheriff’s department, authorities said.
Harsch’s family is represented by Najee Ali, who is also a spokesman for Fuller’s family. After the Harsch family was shown the video, Ali released a statement. “The Victorville Police Department officials released new video evidence to family members,” Ali said. “On behalf of the family of Malcolm Harsch, unfortunately it seems he did take his own life. The family wants to sincerely thank everyone for their support and prayers.”
While the video seems to present clear evidence that Harsch fordid himself, it does raise other questions.
Harsch’s girlfriend called 911 just after 7 a.m., roughly an hour after Harsch’s death. What is depicted on the video suggests that she was not aware of what had occurred until that time, as she had emerged from the tent just to prior to that. The video, however, depicts an individual who was also at the homeless encampment at that time, identified by authorities only by the moniker “Manpower.” Manpower is visible near the homeless encampment outside of the tents there, within visual range of Harsch and the tree as Harsch is approaching the tree with the cord around his neck. Authorities believe Manpower may have witnessed the suicide. Attempts to locate him as of today, however, have been unsuccessful.
Manpower is seen in the video accompanying Harsch’s girlfriend around 7 a.m. when they approach the tree and she discovers her boyfriend is dead.
Shortly thereafter, other denizens of the encampment, apparently summoned by Harsch’s girlfriend, went to the tree, unfastened him and took him to the ground. One of those went to the Victory Outreach church, which is proximate to the site, for help. Two of those who responded from the church attempted cardio-pulmonary resuscitation on Harsch until paramedics arrived.
He was pronounced dead on the scene after an ambulance and other authorities had responded to that location.
According to the sheriff’s department, Harsch had twice been booked into jail in recent months for undisclosed alleged offenses. On one of those occasions, he was subject to a suicide watch.
Authorities were able to shed some limited light on what had prompted Harsch to fordo himself.
Sometime around 3:15 a.m., Harsch, was seen walking down a nearby street, and was heard shouting indiscriminately, profanely and somewhat insensibly. He was encountered by a San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department deputy at 3:17 a.m. The sheriff’s department provides contract law enforcement services to the City of Victorville.
The deputy noticed blood on Harsch’s shirt, and asked about it’s origin. According to an audio recording from a recorder on the deputy’s belt, Harsch somewhat angrily responded that he had cut his hand.
Upon the deputy running a record and warrant check on Harsch, which apparently came up negative, Harsch was no longer detained.
Sometime thereafter, at about dawn, Harsch and his girlfriend began arguing, exchanging mutual accusations of infidelity.
One of the last exchanges the couple had was the woman telling Harsch “I’m going to make one of your homeboys my new boyfriend,” she told deputies.
An analysis of the blood on Harsch’s shirt confirmed it was his own, according to the sheriff’s department.

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