The Department of Natural Resources has released details of its investigation into a reported assault at Lake Monroe over the July Fourth weekend.
Local activist Vauhxx Booker, who is Black, says a group of White people jumped him on the Fourth, assaulting him and threatening to string him up with a noose. Two of those in the group say Booker was the one who instigated things, trespassing and punching one man, Sean Purdy, three times.
The Indiana Department of Natural Resources responded to the scene on the day of the alleged assault and released the 68-page document to WFIU/WTIU News Thursday following a public records act request. In it, potential crimes committed by four people — on both sides of the altercation — are indicated.
Sean Purdy, whose lawyer spoke out Monday saying Booker has been “putting forth a false narrative” about what happened, is listed as facing potential charges of felony criminal confinement and misdemeanor battery against Booker. Booker himself is named as potential victim, as well as a suspect on charges of battery and criminal trespassing against Purdy and another man involved in the incident, Jerry Cox. Cox could also face misdemeanor battery charges, according to the DNR recommendations.
Ian Watkins, who was with Booker at the lake that day, could also face a criminal trespass charge.
Investigators “determined there was evidence of multiple crimes” after conducting more than a dozen interviews with witnesses and those involved in the physical altercation. Video footage from cellphones was also gathered and reviewed.
The report states that the incident occurred on private property belonging to Caroline McCord’s family, and that Booker had passed through the property before doubling back later with some friends.
Purdy told a DNR officer he thought Booker did not like his hat emblazoned with the Confederate flag, and that was why Booker came back.
"Booker, nor his party, provided me with any specific details about why they went back to the private property,” an officer wrote in his notes. According to the same report, Booker said he “was trying to be a good neighbor.”
A report from a different officer says “Booker advised that he went back to talk to the group and tell them that more people were going to be coming through the area and to not yell at them.”
McCord, who was “lucid and did not appear to be impaired like the others,” told investigators that when Booker came back, she told him he was on her property and that she wanted him to leave.
“Ms. McCord advised that Mr. Booker came up to the group from the McCord property and told them that he was a county official and that they were ‘in violation’. Ms. McCord said that she took that to mean Mr. Booker was threatening them with violations as a county official,” the report reads. “Mr. Purdy and Ms. McCord advised that Mr. Booker was told to leave and that he was on private property. Ms. McCord advised that Mr. Booker would not leave the property and that was when the altercation happened.”
Booker said the men threatened to break his arms and that one of the men had a hat with a Confederate flag on it and that the men made statements about “white power.”
Booker’s account, according to one report, says “when he turned around and started to leave, a male, later identified as Mr. Purdy, came up behind Mr. Booker and ‘took a swing’ at Mr. Booker that missed. Mr. Booker then told me he then pushed at Mr. Purdy and then Mr. Purdy got Mr. Booker on the ground and held him there. Then other people from Mr. Purdy’s group came up, surrounded Mr. Booker and would not let him get up. Mr. Booker advised that they also struck him when he was on the ground, pulled his hair and were putting their weight on him with their legs.”
“While I was speaking with Mr. Booker I observed a small scratch on his cheek but no other visible injuries,” the officer wrote. “I asked Mr. Booker if he was injured and he replied that he had a headache.”
When contacted again by investigators for follow-up interviews, Booker declined.
McCord’s account, according to the same report, says “when Mr. Booker first approached her he came through the McCord property and that Mr. Booker ‘got in her face’ and was threatening her with fines and violations and that Ms. McCord then advised Mr. Booker to leave the property and he wouldn't. Mr. Purdy [McCord’s boyfriend] began getting upset that Mr. Booker was in Ms. McCord's face. Ms. McCord stated that Mr. Purdy walked up to get between Mr. Booker and Ms. McCord and then Mr. Booker struck Mr. Purdy three times. Ms. McCord then said Mr. Purdy and Mr. Booker went to the ground. Ms. McCord advised Mr. Purdy kept holding down Mr. Booker because they thought Mr. Booker would start swinging again if he got up.”
Those who were with McCord and Purdy corroborated their account of the incident, while those who were with Booker did the same with his.
When DNR officers arrived at the scene of the incident, Booker tried to get officers to make arrests on the spot. Officers asked the prosecutor’s office if arrests were necessary and were told to make a report.
While answering questions, one of Booker’s friends, Ian Watkins, said he had heard the men talking about a noose. “Mr. Booker then stated that he heard the same remarks but had forgot about them earlier,” the report reads.
The officers called the prosecutor’s office again, relaying the new information, and were told to continue making a report.
In a statement released Thursday evening, Booker’s representative Shoshanah Wolfson says Booker is cooperating with the FBI.
“Even suggesting that a victim of a hate crime is a suspect is inexcusable, immoral, and more evidence that racism is systemic,” the statement reads.
As part of the ensuing investigation, officers attempted to serve a search warrant on the cellphone of Fredrick “Max” Walsh, who was with Booker. During an interview, an officer asked if Walsh would show any locations or video on his phone.
“He said he is not technologically savvy,” the report reads. “I told him we had people that could help there, and he said no. He told me there is evidence on his phone that he does not feel comfortable to share with anyone. Walsh said, ‘When it's time.’”
Walsh promised to turn his phone into the FBI on July 13 but never did so.
The next day, “Detective/Sgt. Stinson served the warrant on FBI Special Agent Russell Warlick as Warlick had previously taken data off of the phone provided to him by Walsh. Warlick had only obtained a limited amount of data from the phone. The data provided no evidentiary information pertaining to the incident that occurred. It should be noted that the phone was not imaged only that Walsh transferred select files from his phone to Warlick.”
No charges have been filed yet, but the Monroe County Prosecutor’s Office is now reviewing the evidence and weighing potential charges, said Deputy Prosecutor Jeff Kehr.
The FBI confirmed it also is still investigating the incident as a possible hate crime.
This story has been updated.
George Hale and the Associated Press contributed to this story.