Monroe County Prosecutor Erika Oliphant is charging two of the people involved in the Fourth of July incident at Lake Monroe.
Sean Purdy is alleged to have committed criminal confinement, a Level 5 felony; battery resulting in moderate bodily injury, a Level 6 felony; and intimidation, a Level 6 felony.
Jerry Cox is alleged to have committed aiding, inducing or causing criminal confinement, a Level 5 felony; battery resulting in moderate bodily injury, a Level 6 felony; intimidation, a Class A misdemeanor; battery, a Class B misdemeanor; and battery, a Class B misdemeanor.
The charges follow protests in Bloomington demanding arrests in the assault on Vauhxx Booker, a local civil rights activist and member of the Monroe County Human Rights Commission. Booker said he called 911 after the men assaulted him and pinned him to a tree at the lake just south of Booker’s hometown of Bloomington.
Booker said the group of five men accused him of trespassing on private property. After he tried to apologize, the situation got physical. Booker said the men threatened to break his arms and said, “get a noose,” while telling his friends to leave the area. Booker also said one of the men had a hat with a Confederate flag on it and that the men made statements about “white power.”
In a statement, Purdy's attorneys said they were disappointed with Oliphant's evaluation of the case and decision to charge Purdy while not charging Booker. A DNR report released yesterday listed charges that could apply to Booker, but were not brought forth.
"Indiana law allows citizens to make arrests of people punching other people on private property, and to use reasonable force in doing so," the statement reads. "Indiana also has a broad self-defense statute. Perhaps the accuser’s public pressure campaign waged by his lawyer and publicist had more influence than we had hoped."
The statement concluded with a call for a jury trial next week.
It wasn’t immediately known if Cox had a lawyer who could speak on his behalf.
Oliphant has requested arrest warrants for the two and filed official charging documents.
According to a news release, “These represent all criminal charges the Prosecuting Attorney has filed based upon these events.”
Booker's attorney, Kitty Liell, confirmed Booker has tested positive for COVID-19, so they held a Zoom meeting Friday afternoon where they discussed the charges.
“The moment I chose to speak out, at the time, I did not understand the response that it would be met with,” Booker said. “But now that I'm in the moment, I understand that I have a duty and an obligation to myself and to everyone to make sure that justice is served. We've been watched by the eyes of the multitude and it's important that we send out a message loud and clear that this type of behavior can no longer be tolerated. That we won't be a divided people, that we won't continue to devolve into the worst of humanity, that we’ll boldly move forward. And that we're going to push towards justice, that we're going to push towards that better society.”
During the Zoom, Liell accused the Department of Natural Resources of purposefully misclassifying the status of their report as “closed by arrest.” She said doing so allowed the DNR to make the report public, and they used the opportunity to tarnish Booker’s reputation.
“I believe DNR intentionally misclassified the status of report in order to release it and preempt the charges that were being considered by the Monroe County prosecuting attorney's office,” Liell said. “It's more than shameful. It needs to be investigated itself.”
Liell said if convicted on consecutive, maximum sentences, Purdy could face up to 11 years behind bars, while Cox could get a sentence of 12 to 13 years.
When asked, “Where do we go from here?” Booker said serious change is necessary.
“It is time for us to disarm and dismantle the machine that has allowed us to get this far,” he said. “If all political leaders continue to be divisive and spew hateful, intolerant rhetoric, we need to remove them from office. If the institutions that are supposed to serve leave us behind, it's time for us to set a new foundation and build up new institutions. It's time for us to re-examine the bonds between us as humans and as siblings of one race.”
This story has been updated. The Associated Press contributed to this story.