Police in Indiana investigating alleged gang assault of Black man caught on video
The alleged attackers shouted slurs and pinned him to a tree, the victim said.
Viral videos depicting a group of white men allegedly assaulting a Black man in an Indiana park on the Fourth of July has caught the attention of Indiana investigators who are seeking more answers and community leaders who are seeking justice.
Vauhxx Rush Booker of Bloomington, Indiana, posted a video on his Facebook page of his confrontation in Lake Monroe, where the alleged attackers are seen cursing and using racial epithets against him. A bystander who came to Booker's aid also filmed the incident and the video showed several white men pin a Black man to a tree with his arms behind him, while several other people shouted for the alleged attackers to let him go.
Booker, an activist who is on the Monroe County Human Rights Commission according to his Facebook page, told ABC News that he suffered a minor concussion, ripped hair and some abrasions, and that he was grateful that his friends and bystanders came to his aid.
"How many Black people had the same surreal and terrifying experience of strangers talking about their own murders in front of them, who then didn't live to see another day?" Booker, 36, wrote in his Facebook post.
Booker told ABC News that the incident took place when he and his friend were on their way to an organized event to view the lunar eclipse on Saturday. While he and a friend were walking on a path, they encountered a white man with "an oversized hat with a confederate flag print on it." The man followed Booker and his friend from behind in an ATV, he said.
The man informed Booker and his friend that they were on private property, and the pair apologized and made their way to the event, Booker said. Then Booker was approached by members of the group participating in the park event, who said that some people had blocked their access to the beach.
"As more group members arrived they informed us they had encountered this gentleman and he blocked off the beachway with a boat and several ATVS and he had yelled 'White Power' at them, along with some other slurs," Booker said.
Booker said he and the group decided to go talk with the people to clear the air, but when they approached the individuals, things escalated.
"We were calm and polite, but 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," Booker said in his Facebook post.
Booker said he and a friend backed away and tried to leave the scene but several people followed and yelled at them. Two of them allegedly jumped Booker and eventually five men overwhelmed him, according to Booker.
Booker said the men dragged him, pinned him to a tree, pounded his head and ripped his hair, and at one point one of them jumped on his neck. Another group of people came to intervene, according to Booker.
"While they were beating me against this tree and people were pleading for them to let me go and struggling to get towards me, one of the gentleman yells to his friend to get a noose," Booker said. "Not a rope, but literally a noose. And I hear a white woman yell, 'Don’t kill him.' And I realize that she’s talking about them killing me."
"They were literally referring to me as a boy," he added. "They didn’t even see me as human. They didn’t stop to care if I had family that loved me. Or if I had children that depended on me. They just saw me as something they could abuse and get away with."
Booker said the people who came to his aid, who were white, got the attackers off him and got him out of the situation, according to the Facebook post. The group called 911 and told officers about the incident, Booker said.
The officers allegedly didn't make any arrests, despite viewing footage of the incident, according to Booker.
"They didn’t seem overly concerned that I might need medical attention or anything else," Booker told ABC News. "I didn’t even feel like they were going to do an investigation. It wasn’t until those same folks who intervened demanded that they arrest these folks that they even started to investigate, to make sure that they had these individuals' names."
"I was heartbroken when the supervising officer, the major, showed up. I felt re-traumatized as I recounted to him how I was afraid for my life," Booker said. "It was mind-blowing. What this officer said to me was, 'Well I could go arrest these guys but they would tell me, "Hey, what about our property rights. We have a right to defend our property."' It was earth shattering."
A spokesman for the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, Law Enforcement Division confirmed to ABC News that they responded to a 911 call about an alleged battery at the lake Saturday night, and that an investigation regarding the incident is underway.
"The Indiana Department of Natural Resources, Law Enforcement Division is working diligently with the Monroe County Prosecutor's Office to ensure a lawful resolution," the spokesman said in a statement.
Monroe County prosecuting attorney Erika Oliphant's office also said in a statement that it is anticipating "receiving the case soon."
"As soon as that happens, we will thoroughly review all of it and determine what charges are appropriate," the office said.
"I’m not sure what burden of proof they’re looking for," Booker told ABC News. "They had video tapes. They had testimonies from several individuals who were assaulted during the altercation."
News of the incident sparked outrage from Indiana elected officials. Mayor John Hamilton and Bloomington City Clerk Nicole Bolden released a statement Monday condemning the alleged violence against Booker and a separate incident where a sheriff was accused of racial profiling a Black resident.
"These separate incidents exemplify the persistence of racism and bias in our country and our own community. They deserve nothing less than our collective condemnation," they said in their statement.
Booker met with Indiana State Senator Eddie Melton Tuesday to discuss the incident.
"I was literally shaken but I’m resilient and hopeful," Booker told ABC News.
This report was featured in the Wednesday, July 8, 2020, episode of “Start Here,” ABC News’ daily news podcast.
"Start Here" offers a straightforward look at the day's top stories in 20 minutes. Listen for free every weekday on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, the ABC News app or wherever you get your podcasts.