The Black man who was beaten by several white men in a racially charged attack at an Indiana lake during the Fourth of July weekend last year is facing criminal charges in connection with the incident.
Vauhxx Booker, 37, was charged on Friday by a special prosecutor on the case in Monroe Circuit Court, with battery resulting in moderate bodily injury, a felony, and misdemeanor criminal trespass, the Courier Journal reported.
Part of the incident, which took place at Lake Monroe last July 4, was filmed. Booker wrote about the attack on Facebook, saying he was a victim of an attempted lynching.
“I was attacked by five white men (with confederate flags) who literally threatened to lynch me in front of numerous witnesses,” he wrote on Facebook after the attack, which gained national attention.
During a Monday press conference on the Monroe County courthouse lawn, Booker and his attorney Katharine Liell claimed the charges against him are retaliation after Booker would not go along with a proposed reconciliation plan.
“There’s nothing more American than charging a Black man in his own attempted lynching,” Booker said.
Booker said he and friends were at Lake Monroe last year to watch the lunar eclipse when a group of men approached, claiming they were trespassing on private property. Booker and his friend apologized and went on their way, before joining more people at a campsite.
But when the men, some of whom were wearing Confederate flag clothing, blocked off entry points with ATVs, the situation escalated as some of the men began yelling “white power.” Booker, the only Black person there, said he felt intimidated. He and a friend were trying to leave when he was ambushed by two people. Booker was dragged towards a tree and pinned against it as the men yelled multiple times, “Get a noose.”
Footage of the incident shows Booker on his knees against a tree surrounded by multiple people. He suffered a minor concussion, cuts and bruises. He and his attorney believe the bystanders who filmed the encounter and demanded Booker be let go ultimately saved his life.
Two weeks after the attack, Sean M. Purdy, now 45, was charged with three felonies, including criminal confinement with bodily injury, battery with moderate injury and intimidation. Purdy’s friend, 39-year-old Jerry E. Cox II, was charged with aiding, inducing or causing criminal confinement and battery, as well as three misdemeanors, including intimidation and two counts of battery.
A 68-page Indiana Department of Natural Resources report found that Booker should also be charged with battery and trespassing because he allegedly punched Cox and Purdy, and returned to the private property after being escorted away the first time. However, Monroe County Prosecutor Erika Oliphant chose not to charge Booker before recusing herself from the case. Special prosecutor Sonia Leerkamp was appointed to replace Oliphant, and she charged Booker on July 30.
Booker said he refused to sign a confidentiality clause that would have dismissed the charges against Cox and Purdy during mediation, and added that he will fight the charges against him. Booker said he would not “go on a forgiveness tour” making public apologies to the men who assaulted him.
“I have never seen a prosecutor open a new case and file charges a year later,” Liell said, saying she would challenge the prosecutor’s action.
“I don’t care if they want to drag me back to the hanging tree itself,” Booker said, promising to stand up against the charges.