Two men have been charged for the alleged lynching against a Black man on the Fourth of July.
The racist hateful attack was seen in a viral video recorded in the woods near a lake in Bloomington, IN. Sean Purdy and Jerry Cox are charged with various crimes, including confinement and battery against 36-year-old Vauhxx Booker, Indianapolis Star reports.
Monroe County Prosecutor Erika Oliphant filed two active warrants for Purdy and Cox and says Booker faces no charges. Purdy is charged with three felony counts of criminal confinement, battery resulting in injury and intimidation. Cox is charged with aiding or causing criminal confinement, felony battery resulting in injury, intimidation and two misdemeanor counts of battery.
Booker posted his account of the July 4 hate crime along with the frightening video to his Facebook account. He recalled hoe he and his friends were visiting a public beach on Lake Monroe outside Bloomington when a group of white men said they were on private property and began following them.
“I don’t want to recount this, but I was almost the victim of an attempted lynching.” He went on: “On July 4th evening others and me were victims of what I would describe as a hate crime. I was attacked by five white men [with Confederate flags] who literally threatened to lynch me in front of numerous witnesses.”
Some of the men became belligerent, he said. When he approached “sober seeming group members” to “see if we could smooth things over a bit,” the confrontation escalated.
Viral video of the incident shows a group of white men holding Booker to a tree as his friends plead with them to release him. In the video, one man shouts at the camera,
“You happy about this, you nappy-headed bitch? You and your five white friends?” As Booker’s friends leave, one of the men follows, shouting, “Those Black boys want to start it all.”
However, attorneys for one of the two men charged claim that Booker was the instigator.
“Mr. Booker needs to tell the truth about punching people and apologize to the people he has harmed and to all real victims of racism because he has diminished them,” four attorneys representing Purdy in a statement, IndyStar reports. “Also, those who were there with Mr. Booker and know the truth should also come out and tell the truth. Mr. Booker was the instigator and agitator. There was no problem until Mr. Booker returned for no legitimate reason. He was the aggressor and became threatening. Mr. Booker was the first to throw punches. Mr. Booker was then restrained. Not beaten. Restrained. For his own safety and the safety of others. He then started race-baiting. Then stuck around after his alleged ‘near lynching’ to video his attackers.”
At the time of the incident, Booker claimed that a DNR law enforcement supervisor kept talking about the property owner’s rights.
“This officer was clearly elevating property rights above my life,” Booker said. “That’s something we’re seeing on a macro level throughout society where Black lives aren’t as important as property.”
Booker says he’s alive because witnesses stopped to help and film the altercation.
“The reason why I’m here today is simply because these folks, they didn’t just stop and watch and film my execution,” Booker said in an interview with NPR’s Mary Louise Kelly. “They became involved. They became active participants. They put themselves in danger when they stepped forward for me.”
“I saw the face of George Floyd in my mind. … I didn’t want to be a hashtag.”
The FBI confirmed last week that it was investigating the incident as a potential hate crime. Meanwhile, Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb referred to the incident as “beyond disturbing.”
“The brief video clip that I viewed with my own two eyes was beyond disturbing,” Holcomb said. “And that’s why it’s very important that the DNR … complete their investigation sooner rather than later.”
Bloomington Mayor Greg Hamilton, who said he has known Booker personally for at least five years, said his city had work to do.
“I don’t know what would have happened in the woods around Lake Monroe if there hadn’t been other individuals there and if there hadn’t been a video taken,” Hamilton told Yahoo News. “It’s incredibly important that we as a country, and then me and my community, that we make clear that has no place in our community, and we want to root it out.”
“We believe in inclusion, but in our community we know we have hate incidents every year,” added Hamilton. “We know there’s racism in our community and around our community, and we can’t pretend that’s not the case.”
Two people were injured after being struck with a car at a peaceful Black Lives Matter demonstration in support of Booker last Monday outside the Monroe County Courthouse in Bloomington.
Christi Bennett of Greenfield, Ind., was booked two days later on preliminary charges of criminal recklessness and leaving the scene of an accident, a jail official confirmed. She was later released after posting a $500 bond.