July 29, 2020 | Indianapolis News
The Associated Press (AP) has been following an incident that occurred at Lake Monroe over the July Fourth weekend. The AP requested and obtained a 68-page document from the Indiana Department of Natural Resources in response to a public records act request. In addition to state investigations, the FBI has confirmed that it is also investigating the matter as a potential federal hate crime.
According to the DNR report, potential crimes that occurred because of the altercation include:
- Felony criminal confinement
- Misdemeanor battery
- Criminal trespassing
The investigators confirmed that there was evidence that multiple crimes had been committed. Investigators reviewed videos from cell phones and interviewed over a dozen witnesses, in addition to interviewing the parties involved in the alleged assault.
The parties involved in the incident have very different narratives of what occurred.
The Alleged Assault From Booker’s Perspective
According to Vauhxx Booker, he called 911 after several men assaulted him at Lake Monroe. Booker is a member of the Monroe County Human Rights Commission and lives in Bloomington.
Booker said he was at the lake with friends when a group of men pinned him to a tree and assaulted him. Booker claims that the men informed him that he was trespassing. He apologized for the trespass, and that was when five men attacked him.
Allegedly, the men pinned Booker to a tree, threatened to break his arms, and threatened to “get a noose.” Also, Booker claims that the men made statements about “white power,” and one man’s hat had a Confederate flag on it.
A video posted by Booker on his Facebook account allegedly shows a white man pinning Booker to a tree. Another person can be heard off-camera making a racist statement while another man yells, “You invaded us!” Other expletives can be heard combined with the words “stupid” and “liberal.”
Booker alleges that he was calm and that the individuals had targeted him and his group. According to initial reports, Booker sustained bruises, cuts, a minor concussion, and patches of his hair had been pulled out.
Several local officials expressed their outrage over the incident, especially the fact that the DNR officers who investigated the incident did not make any arrests.
A Different Perspective From Purdy
However, as more information about the incident was released, a different narrative developed. An attorney for one of the individuals alleged to have assaulted Booker stated that Booker has been “putting forth a false narrative” about what occurred at the lake.
According to an attorney for Sean Purdy and Caroline McCord, two individuals accused of being involved in the incident, stated that Booker was the agitator and the instigator. Booker and his attorney allege that he was the victim of an attempted lynching.
McCord and Purdy claim that Booker was on private property. After being informed of the property line, they thought the matter was resolved. They allege that Booker approached them and their group hours later as he threatened them and claimed to be a county commissioner.
Purdy claims that Booker then punched him three times, which was the beginning of the altercation that resulted in Booker being held against a tree. McCord and Purdy deny saying anything about a noose, but they do admit that some people they know said “some racially insensitive stuff.”
As to the video that Booker posted, McCord’s attorney claims that there is additional video footage of the event that will provide context, but that they did not have the footage. The attorney also stated that a person being targeted because of race is deplorable, but that a person using his race as a weapon to “arouse public passion over a false allegation” is equally deplorable.
The incident is still under investigation by the DNR and the FBI. No arrests have been made at this time.
There are Always Two Sides to Every Story
Whenever an alleged crime is committed, there are two sides to the story. In most cases, the person accused of the crime has a very different story compared to the victim’s or police officer’s account of the event. It is natural to want to tell your side of the story.
However, talking to police officers and investigators can be tricky. You could inadvertently provide information that could be used against you in court. However, you also do not want to be charged with obstructing justice.
If possible, call a criminal defense attorney immediately for advice. When you answer questions about an incident, only answer the question asked. Do not embellish or provide additional information.
Also, avoid speaking to the media and do not post videos or statements on social media or online. Your defense attorney decides how and when to make public statements. The timing and content of those statements are part of a careful strategy to protect your best interests.