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DNR Investigating After Black Man Reports Racist Assault At Lake Monroe

Vauhxx Booker video still

A still from a video uploaded to Facebook shows a group of White people surrounding Vauhxx Booker as he is pressed against a tree. (Vauhxx Booker)

Indiana’s Department of Natural Resources is investigating an apparently racially motivated assault on a Black man at Lake Monroe on Saturday.

“The Indiana Department of Natural Resources Law enforcement division can confirm our officers responded to this call for service,” Capt. Jet Quillen of the DNR said Monday.

“The incident is under investigation and the final report will be forwarded to the Monroe County prosecutor’s office upon completion,” he said.

Bloomington resident Vauhxx Booker says several White men attacked him and shouted racial epithets during an outing near Lake Monroe.

“I was attacked by five white men, who literally threatened to lynch me in front of numerous witnesses,” Booker said in an interview Monday.

“Looking back now, it’s apparent that these individuals began targeting our group the moment they saw myself, a Black man, and were looking to provoke a conflict,” he said.

One of three videos uploaded to Facebook on Sunday shows several White people surrounding Booker pressed against a tree in a wooded area. Another shows a shirtless White man shouting racial slurs at the person recording. A third video shows Booker leaving with others, as a White man continues to shout and curse at the departing group.

As of Monday morning, the videos have been viewed more than a million times.

Booker says that the White men attacked him shortly after one arrived on an ATV and accused him and a friend of trespassing on private property. Later, as Booker attempted to take a different route, he says a larger group attacked him.

“Two of them jumped me from behind and knocked me to the ground. I tussled with the two and another one joined in, then two more,” Booker wrote in the Facebook post. “The five were able to easily overwhelm me and got me to the ground and dragged me pinning my body against a tree as they began pounding on my head and ripped off some of my hair, with several of them still on top of my body holding me down.”

Booker added that the group “pinned and continued beating me for several minutes” and seemingly became more enraged as they failed to injure him.

“At one point during the attack one of the men jumped on my neck. I could feel both his feet and his full bodyweight land hard against my neck,” he said.

Booker says that the commotion alerted people on the beach, and they arrived to investigate what was happening and attempted to intervene. He said the attackers told the growing group that they were going to break Booker’s arms while bending his arms behind his back and calling him racial slurs.

At one point, he says, an attacker instructed other members of their party to get a noose.

Booker said, "There was a moment when I heard a White woman scream out "don't kill him" while these men had me pinned down and I thought to myself how many times in history have Black people heard their own murders being narrated?"

The attackers repeatedly told the others in Booker’s party and the other White onlookers to leave. Several people were filming and refused to leave.

Booker added that after a call to 911, officers from the Department of Natural Resources arrived and first interviewed the alleged attackers before talking to his group. The officers eventually determined that no arrests needed to be made right away, but that they would file a report to the prosecutor’s office, Booker said.

The officers "refused to arrest any of these individuals, even with multiple witnesses including several who filmed the event and collaborated our accounts. … To reiterate, this attack occurred on public land and was recorded by numerous individuals who made statements against the attackers for assaulting them and me. I’m gravely concerned that if any other people of color who were to cross their path they could be killed.”

Booker said, "I think they saw me as a shadow of a man, something that was less than human and a person they felt like they could have the authority to cease my body and potentially take my life and that the system would measure out no justice to them."

In a Facebook post, attorney Katharine Liell wrote that she is representing Booker.

“The case is currently under active review by the Monroe County Prosecutor’s Office. The prosecutor called in DNR who will be forced to answer some tough questions. Based upon my experience, arrest warrants will be issued. I am representing Vauhxx in this matter and we will keep the public updated. I can’t begin to express the gratitude I feel for those who are supporting and praying for Vauhxx and an end to the racial hatred that is rampant here right now.”

The Monroe County prosecutor's office says it is awaiting materials from the DNR. 

"I met with Indiana Conservation Officers this morning (Monday, July 6) regarding this case," prosecutor Erika Oliphant said in an emailed statement.

"They are actively and thoroughly investigating the events that took place on Saturday. Once my office has received the completed investigation and all associated media, we will review those materials and make charging decisions." 

State Senator Mark Stoops (D-Bloomington) says he was horrified to hear about the racist attack and says it should be treated as a hate crime.

“I call on Governor Holcomb to immediately suspend the DNR officers involved pending further investigation," Stoops said in a statement. "After viewing the videos, the DNR officers had clear evidence that a crime had been committed and immediate corrective action should have been taken."

Bloomington Mayor John Hamilton and City Clerk Nicole Bolden released a statement condemning the attack and committing to advocate for justice. Lake Monroe is not under the city's jurisdiction, but the mayor said he's been reaching out to the affected individuals, to the Monroe County Prosecutor, Governor Holcomb, and law enforcement officials in Monroe and Lawrence Counties.

Booker is a member of the Monroe County Human Rights Commission. 

This story has been updated.

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