As America has its reckoning with racism in the aftermath of the police killing of Black, unarmed George Floyd in Minneapolis, protests continue to fight against racial injustices. In the midst of the demonstrations a disturbing trend of the bodies of Black men found hung in trees around the country is happening.
In news that might mirror the turn of the 20th century, reports of the dead bodies being found hung are making their way to the 21st century and families believe they are racially motivated. Since Floyd’s death, reports indicate that four Black men have been found hanging from trees, including one in New York City and another in New Jersey.
The first death occurred on May 31 when the body of 38-year-old Malcolm Harsch was found hanging from a tree in Victorville, California. It was found near a homeless encampment with an HDMI cord. The San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department said surveillance video confirms no foul play and they ruled the death a homicide. However, Harsch’s family is demanding answers.
“My brother was loving, he was caring, respectable, talented,” said Harmonie Harsch. “My brother was tied to a tree with a HDMI cord. Someone took their time with that knot, took their time tying this! It was too perfect, too perfect!”
Officials from the sheriff’s department said they are working with the Department of Justice on Malcolm’s death.
On June 9, the body of 27-year-old Bronx resident Dominique Alexander was found hanging from a tree in Manhattan’s Fort Tryon Park. The city’s medical examiner ruled the death a suicide but his family says they don’t understand why Alexander would kill himself.
“He was definitely loved by his family and his community,” his brother, Keats Alexander, said in one published interview. “It’s just so much.”
Over 100 people participated in a recent protest over Alexander’s death in Fort Tryon Park. Police say the investigation is ongoing.
The next day, the body of 25-year-old Robert Fuller was found hanging from a tree in Palmdale, California, near city hall. The death was ruled a suicide but his family and the community demanded an investigation. The FBI is also involved in the case. A week later, Fuller’s brother, Terron Boone, was killed by law enforcement during a reported shootout.
Palmdale has a history of white supremacist groups being active in the area; it has seen the most hate crimes in Los Angeles County. Black residents have also been targeted to move out of the area.
“My cousin is not suicidal,” said one of Fuller’s relatives in one report. “He don’t have no mental issues or anything like that. He did not kill himself and we are not going to stop until we get answers.”
Twenty-year-old Amanuel “Amani” Kildea’s body was found hanging from a tree in Lewis Morris Park in Morris Township, N.J. on June 28. Law enforcement officials ruled the death a suicide, however his family and local activists believe Kildea with the victim of a lynching.
Kildea was reportedly well-known for exposing alleged child-sex predators with the online team PedoGotCaught. The group goes after people who try to meet up with minors for sex by communicating with them online and later exposing them on social media.
“As of this time, no evidence of a criminal act has yet been found, however, our efforts to determine what occurred remain very active,” Morris County Prosecutor Fredric M. Knapp said in a statement. “We have followed and continue to follow all investigative leads and will go where the evidence takes us.”
Black Lives Matter Morristown founder T’Anna Kimbrough said on social media that Kildea’s death has not been fully investigated.
“We have been forced to conclude that this investigation was insufficient given Prosecutor Knapp’s failure to provide the Morris County community with the pertinent details of Amani’s death,” Kimbrough said. “It is obvious that there is, and continues to be, a rush to judgment without thoroughly investigating all of the facts when it pertains [to] the death of Black people.”