The federal authorities said on Monday, they plan to review the local authorities investigation into the hanging deaths of two black men in Southern California. They will reveal after investigation if any federal laws were violated.
Local authorities have said there is no evidence of foul play in the deaths of Robert Fuller in Palmdale and Malcolm Harsch in Victorville and early indications direct both to suicide, but sheriffs have decided to continue to investigate the cases.
Monday’s announcement follows weekend protests, which were prompted by the initial determination of suicide as the likely cause of death for Fuller.
People who participated in a town hall hosted by Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva on Monday also voiced concerns that Fuller and Harsch may have been lynched. The investigators were urged to look into the possibility that hate crimes were committed.
The FBI, US attorney’s office in the Central District of California and the US Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division are monitoring the investigations of the Los Angeles County and San Bernardino County sheriffs, authorities said in a statement.
The city of Palmdale issued a statement supporting an independent inquiry, and three elected officials urged California Attorney General Xavier Becerra to lead the probe. Becerra said for now his investigators will just support the sheriff’s department, though we also have the ability to do it on our own if necessary.
Fuller’s body was discovered on Wednesday at around 3:30 am in a park near the City Hall. An autopsy was conducted on Friday and the Los Angeles County medical examiner-coroner’s office said the 24-year-old man appeared to have died by suicide.
The finding prompted strong disapproval by his family. They believed he wasn’t suicidal, The community members called for an independent investigation and autopsy.
Homicide detectives plan to analyze the rope and its knot, canvass the area for video footage, interview Fuller’s social services case worker and speak to anyone who had recently interacted with him. They are also seeking to meet with Fuller’s family, authorities said.