BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (WISH) – On Friday morning, the Monroe County Prosecutor’s Office announced charges in the July 4 Lake Monroe altercation.
According to online court records, Sean Purdy, 44, of Pittsboro, was charged with criminal confinement, battery resulting in moderate bodily injury, and intimidation. All three counts are felonies. Purdy’s lawyer has not responded to a request for comment.
Jerry Cox, 38, of Danville, was charged with a felony count of criminal confinement with bodily injury, and felony count of battery resulting in moderate bodily injury. Cox also faces a misdemeanor count of intimidation and two misdemeanor counts of battery, according to the online records.
Vauhxx Booker was not charged.
Booker attorney Katharine Leill had a news conference via teleconference on Friday afternoon and announced he learned earlier in the day that he has tested positive for the coronavirus. For that reason, Leill said, she and Booker held an online news conference instead of meeting with the news media in person. Both are in quarantine.
Leill said the prosecutor’s action sends a clear message that hate crimes are not only illegal but also morally repugnant. She said a independent judge reviewed the case and determined that Purdy said “get a noose,” leading to felony charges.
Booker said in the news conference that he wanted to reflect on the sad moment. “We’ve seen a lot of mudslinging and name-calling.” He asked people need to realize we’re all human and this quest is for justice rather than vengeance. “Accountability, which I’m asking for, is not the same as punishment.” Booker, who is a member of the Monroe County Human Rights Commission, also said there is a need to move the case to the federal level. “It’s important to send a message that this type of behavior will no longer be tolerated.” He also criticized the Indiana Department of Natural Resources (DNR) for its effort to “victim-shame me.”
The DNR released its investigative report to News 8 on Thursday afternoon. Information redacted from the report included witnesses’ addresses and dates or birth, and identifying information on juvenile witnesses.
DNR conservation officers were called about 8:10 p.m. July 4 to an altercation between two groups of people southeast of Bloomington on the shore of Lake Monroe. One group was camping on property owned by Bruce McCord; the other group was camping in the Hoosier National Forest. The report said the altercation involved Vauhxx Booker; Purdy, the boyfriend of McCord’s daughter; and Cox, Purdy’s boss and friend.
Purdy’s lawyers released a statement on his behalf Friday evening:
We are obviously disappointed with the first-term Monroe County prosecutor’s evaluation of this case and her unfortunate decision to charge Sean Purdy while choosing not to file criminal charges against his trespassing assailant. It appears entire portions of an exhaustive law enforcement investigation (including physical evidence and credible eyewitness testimony) were ignored in reaching that decision. Legitimate and evidence-based charging recommendations by law enforcement officers also went ignored. That is troubling.
Indiana law allows citizens to make arrests of people punching other people on private property, and to use reasonable force in doing so. 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.
Fortunately, the facts of July 4, 2020 have been preserved and the truth exposed to some extent. Sean must now carry his innocence into the courtroom and fight for his exoneration. We would welcome a jury trial next week so the stigma of false and wrongful accusations can be exposed and repudiated sooner rather than later. A citizen jury won’t be clouded by politics.
The Criminal Defense Team of Baldwin Perry and Kamish, P.C.
Cox’s attorney Joe Lozano declined comment Friday evening saying his office policy is to not comment on pending cases.
Booker has said the altercation was racially motivated and involved dialogue about a rope and a noose, but Booker, through his attorney, rejected two requests for interviews with conservation officers about what happened. In a statement from Booker’s publicist to the news media, Booker’s lawyer has referred to the altercation as “an attempted lynching and violent prejudice fueled attack.” Booker met July 13 with FBI agents. In a news conference Friday at People’s Park in Bloomington, Booker called for a grand jury to investigate the altercation.The DNR case data report of the altercation at Lake Monroe suggests these criminal charges:
- Sean Purdy: a felony count of criminal confinement and a misdemeanor count of battery.
- Vauhxx Booker: two misdemeanor counts of battery and a misdemeanor count of criminal trespass.
- Jerry Cox: two misdemeanor counts of battery.
- Ian Watkins: a misdemeanor count of criminal trespass.
Purdy told conservation officers he had encountered people throughout the day who were trespassing on the McCord property. According to the report, Purdy “would explain to them all, where the property lines were, and that the McCord’s (sic) did not wish to have them on their property.”
Booker and his friend Watkins were among people who Purdy encountered on the McCord property. Purdy said he gave Booker and Watkins a ride on a cart to direct them to a campsite on adjacent property. Purdy told conservation officers that “Booker was not friendly to him during that encounter and further explained that they did not like his (Purdy’s) hat. Purdy described his hat as a cowboy hat with a confederate flag on it,” the report said.
Purdy said he later noticed Booker yelling while “as close as two inches” to his girlfriend, Caroline McCord, but did not hear what was said because of a radio being played nearby. Booker and McCord were on a hill near Booker and Watkins’ campsite, Purdy told conservation officers.
The report said, “At that point, Purdy said he forced his way in between Booker and McCord by pushing Booker (He demonstrated this with his hands). Purdy later said that he did not move Booker with the push, due to Booker being much larger than he was. Purdy said, he told Booker ‘Don’t talk to my lady like that, you are over here on our property, you are not going to come over here and do this.’ Purdy then said he got punched in the jaw, causing the bruise on his chin. Purdy said he went down after the punch and then his memory was a little blurry after that because of the punch.
“Purdy said he didn’t remember how they ended up in a position where he was holding Booker up against a tree. He specifically said ‘I don’t remember a minute or so’. He said he was mainly holding Booker up against the tree with his legs. Purdy said he did not think Booker was trying very hard to get out of being held up against the tree. Purdy said he remembered Booker could breathe fine and said ‘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 he did not know when/how Jerry Cox got involved. Purdy also said Caroline said he (Purdy) had been hit three times but he only knew of one time. Purdy said he did not say any threats to Booker and did not hear any others. Purdy admitted to drinking quite a bit that day. I also asked Purdy why he did not report getting punched that evening (July 4, 2020). Purdy said he just wanted it all to go away.”
Conservation officers interviewed Cox on July 6 at the Morgan County Sheriff’s Office in Martinsville. Cox said Purdy has been his boss and friend for 15 years, the report said. Cox had a black eye at the interview.
Cox was drinking with other people on a boat near the shoreline when he saw the interaction between Booker, McCord and Purdy.
The report said, “Mr. Cox said that he could hear Mr. Booker talking about Sean Purdy’s Confederate Flag hat that he was wearing that day. Mr. Cox said that the next thing he saw was Sean Purdy and Vauhxx Booker ‘rolling around in the bushes.’ Mr. Cox states at that point he ran over to that location to ‘get things settled’ and got Mr. Booker stood up, and that’s when he said Mr. Booker punched him in the face. Mr. Cox said that he punched Mr. Booker back after he was punched and further stated that his right hand was hurting him pretty bad the next day. Mr. Cox said that he believed he punched Mr. Booker ‘a couple times.’ Mr. Cox said that after that, they told Mr. Booker to just leave and get out of the area. Mr. Cox stated that he knew that we had seen the video and that he said some things that he shouldn’t have said.”
Later in the interview, “Mr. Cox said that he did not really ‘remember greatly’ exactly how everything happened once the fight started,” the report said.
Cox also told investigators that he never stated “get a rope,” “get a noose” or anything similar to that.
The report said, “Mr. Cox said the reason he was so angry was because Mr. Booker punched him in the face and also because of some things he had said during the incident. Mr. Cox commented that ‘you could clearly see in the video that he wanted me to call him the ‘N’ word’ and that Mr. Booker said ‘just do it, just do it, you know you want to.’”
Cox told investigators he was sorry for directing a racial slur toward Booker.
“Mr. Cox said that Mr. Booker wasn’t trying to resolve things and was making things worse,” the report said.
Conservation officers who responded to the altercation said injuries were minor. Cox had a small cut on his forehead and redness under his eye. Booker had a small scratch on his left cheek and complained of a headache.
The next day, July 5, Booker reported to DNR that he’d had pieces of his hair pulled out and had suffered a concussion in the altercation.
The conservation officers interviewed 15 people, obtained multiple videos and photos received from people at the altercation, and made transcripts of audio from the videos, the report shows.
One person at the campsite where Booker and Watkins stayed, Fredrick “Max” Walsh, refused to turn over his videos of the altercation to the FBI and conservation officers.
“There were others around the tree but Purdy appeared to be the only one holding Booker down. Multiple people could be heard instructing Purdy to ‘let him go,’” the report said.
One video showed Booker being pinned against a tree. Booker also was “bent over and appeared to be being held down” by Purdy, the report said.
A conservation officer on July 7 found the tree Booker had been pinned against in the video but found no evidence of blood or hair at the site along Lake Monroe, which is a reservoir. “The tree was clearly within the Corp of Engineers property line,” the report said.
Other videos showed the interactions between the two groups as Booker’s group was walked back to its campsite.
In addition to the criminal investigation, the altercation led to at least three demonstrations in nearby downtown Bloomington, including one demonstration that led to a 66-year-old woman being criminally charged after two people were injured.