BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (WISH) — Indiana conservation officers have proposed criminal charges against people on both sides of an altercation July 4 near Lake Monroe, according to a report submitted to the Monroe County prosecutor.
The prosecutor’s office said Wednesday that it was continuing to review the evidence and, by Thursday afternoon, had announced no action.
The Indiana Department of Natural Resources (DNR) released the 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, who is a member of the Monroe County Human Rights Commission; Sean Purdy, the boyfriend of McCord’s daughter; and Jerry “Bubba” Cox, Sean’s boss and friend.
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, who is from Danville, 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 incident 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.
- Victim’s attorney: ‘I see felonies in those videos’ from Monroe Lake altercation
- Vauhxx Booker, attorney call upon US attorney to convene grand jury after Lake Monroe incident
- Lawyer for 2 in Lake Monroe video shares different story of reported battery
- Prosecutor’s office actively reviewing Lake Monroe incident reports, evidence from DNR
“In an extraordinary and prejudicial move the DNR (Department of Natural Resources) officers who on July 4th 2020 refused to arrest the very people who called Vauhxx Booker by ugly racist slurs and threatened to lynch him, have improperly released a record of their investigation, which they refused to even admit they were conducting.
“This is inappropriate conduct by a law enforcement agency to publicly release documents which are generally denied even under Indiana Public Access Laws. Why are they doing it? Because they are threatened and embarrassed, since they didn’t do the right thing two weeks ago.
“Vauhxx Booker is the victim.
“Even suggesting that a victim of a hate crime is a suspect is inexcusable, immoral, and more evidence that racism is systemic.
“Vauhxx Booker has not committed any crimes and is a free man. He did not refuse interviews with law enforcement in fact he has been and continues to work with the FBI. He refused to be subjected to an interview with the same DNR officers who refused to listen to him July 4th when he was attacked.
“Vauhxx was being held against his will, battered, and threatened because of the color of his skin. Vauhxx Booker’s friends saw it and they put it on tape. The DNR report confirms Booker’s previous accounts that Sean Purdy had been wearing a confederate flag hat.
“This is yet another outrageous example of how Black people in America cannot get justice and are repeatedly re-victimized by the system. We again call on The United States Attorney to pursue Hate Crime charges and convene a grand jury to examine this case.Statement from Vauhxx Booker and his attorney, Katherine Liell, from publicist Shoshanah Wolfson
“Based upon a press release yesterday on behalf of the accuser, it appears Mr. Booker’s lawyer and publicist want to strong-arm a prosecutor’s decision by stirring up the sentiments of a public who does not yet know all the facts. Mr. Booker was the bully fake county commissioner on July 4. Now his lawyer and publicist are acting like bullies, calling the Monroe County Prosecutor out by name yesterday (a person Booker has previously openly declared he had supported during her campaign), publicly imploring her to ‘do the right thing.’ For Mr. Booker, his lawyer, and his publicist, the ‘right thing’ seems to be what they want, not what the evidence demands. It is what they have done from the beginning of this shameful ordeal – loudly push out a narrative that accomplishes Mr. Booker’s financial and notoriety goals regardless of the truth. Ms. Liell has been a licensed attorney for over 31 years. Surely she knows prosecutors cannot and do not issue warrants. Or perhaps yesterday’s press release was written by Mr. Booker’s publicist, Shoshanah.Wolfson@gmail.com, who is untrained in the law but apparently is learned in ways to make more money and garner more attention for her client. Was it Mr. Booker who said the local paper in Bloomington wasn’t big enough for his story, or was that Booker’s publicist speaking again? Putting public pressure on elected officials to try to get your way is sad and desperate. It is also wrong. The Bloomington and Monroe County communities should appreciate they have, in Erika Oliphant, an elected prosecutor of high integrity and strong character who makes charging decisions in high-profile cases only after thoroughly following where the evidence and the law lead, not allowing baseless, histrionic calls for action to dictate her timeline in doing so.”The criminal defense team of Baldwin, Perry and Kamish PC, which represents Sean Purdy