MONROE COUNTY, Ind. — The Monroe County Prosecutor’s Office is now considering what, if any, charges should be filed in a Fourth of July assault at Lake Monroe.
The prosecutor's office said it "received extensive investigative reports, along with digital evidence, from the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, Law Enforcement Division" that it is now reviewing.
The DNR investigation lists several potential crimes for charges including:
- Criminal Confinement: Sean Purdy
- Battery: Sean Purdy
- 2 Battery charges: Jerry Cox
- 2 Battery charges: Vauhxx Booker
- Criminal Trespass: Vauhxx Booker
- Criminal Trespass: Ian Watkins
Vauhxx Booker, a Black man, claims he was attacked and held against his will by a group of white men.
Booker posted videos taken by himself and others of the incident on his Facebook page. Booker’s attorney, Katherine Liell, says the FBI is investigating the case as a possible hate crime.
Booker claims there had been words exchanged between the two groups earlier in the day and he had gone to smooth things out.
He said he was hit, had hair torn out and held against a tree.
Sean Purdy and Caroline McCord, two of the people in question, have been identified in the video.
David Hennessy, attorneys for the two, said that Booker has "created a false narrative that he is perpetuating with the media, and in doing so, Mr. Booker is harming innocent people. Those innocent people have passed polygraphs. We challenge Mr. Booker to take one."
During an interview with DNR, Purdy said that Booker was yelling at his girlfriend and when he intervened, Booker punched him in the jaw knocking him down.
“I don't remember a minute or so,” Purdy said. He also told them he didn't remember how he ended up holding Booker against a tree.
“I was just holding him in place, not letting him go, were gonna, you know. I wanted to stop it from happening, ready for it to be over, you know," Purdy said according to the investigation document.
A witness with Purdy's group said in an interview with investigators that Booker was calm at first, but when he saw Purdy coming down a hill towards them, Booker walked up to Purdy and took an aggressive stance. He said that Purdy then also took an aggressive stance. The witness said he had a very clear view of Booker and Purdy when the altercation started, and Caroline McCord was not there. (Several other witnesses said she was and that Booker had been arguing with her prior to the altercation.) Investigators said when reviewing the video after the fight, McCord was saying “abuse of power.”
Attorneys for Purdy and McCord have said their clients did not say anything about white power or lynching. The attorneys claim that McCord actually said abuse of power because they say Booker was claiming to be a county commissioner.
A witness with Booker's group told investigators he had heard someone screaming "white power" as he was walking to the beach to join his group. He also claimed that during the fight, he heard specific comments about a rope and a noose but did not know who said them or the exact verbiage. He also said he heard “we are going to break his arm." The witness also said while Booker was being held down against the tree, he did not hear any racial slurs but heard someone refer to Booker as “boy” multiple times.
Another witness with Booker's group claims he heard someone in a red shirt "call for a rope," according to the investigation report. He said the man in the red shirt then said "'go get a noose' several times."
Another witness with Booker's group also said a man in a red shirt called for a noose several times. He said he was also told to: “Leave the boy and get the hell out.” He claims that he was with Booker when everything began and that Booker was calm and did not throw any punches, but was pushed from behind and then hit, wrestled to the ground, and then pinned against a tree.
A DNR officer that was called to the scene at the time of the altercation said he saw no significant injuries on Booker's head and saw no signs of hair being torn out when he checked Booker's head. He reported that Booker changed his statement after someone in the group said they heard someone in Purdy's group call for a noose. "Mr. Booker then stated that he heard the same remarks but had forgot about them earlier."
Again, the Monroe County Prosecutor’s Office is now considering what, if any, charges should be filed.