Two Men Charged In Alleged Racially-Tinged Assault at Indiana Lake

July 17, 2020 Updated: July 17, 2020

Two men were charged Friday in connection with an altercation in southern Indiana in which opposing parties suffered minor injuries and a black man claimed his assailants shouted racial slurs and threatened to “get a noose.”

Sean Purdy has been charged with felony criminal confinement, battery resulting in moderate bodily injury, and intimidation. Jerry Cox II has been charged with felony criminal confinement and battery resulting in moderate bodily injury, as well as two misdemeanors. Monroe County Prosecuting Attorney Erika Oliphant said warrants have been issued for their arrest.

Purdy’s defense attorney, David Hennessy, had no immediate comment on the charges but previously said Vauhxx Booker, a black civil rights activist and member of the Monroe County Human Rights Commission, presented “a false narrative” about what happened. Hennessy alleged Booker “was the instigator and the agitator” of the violent confrontation.

Booker said a group of five men accused him of trespassing on private property at Monroe Lake near Bloomington over Independence Day weekend. He said that after he tried to apologize, the situation became physical. Booker described the incident to AJ Plus in an interview.

“I thought they were going to try to do anything they could to seriously injure me, if not kill me, and if I had a doubt, the doubt was removed when I heard one of them yell at their friend ‘man, get a noose!'” Booker told AJ Plus.

Asked about his injuries, Booker said, “I was diagnosed with a minor concussion. I also had abrasions and bruising, neck strain, and patches of hair that were ripped out of my head.”

Officers with the Indiana Department of Natural Resources who responded to the incident released a 68-page investigatory report, which paints a conflicting picture of the incident. It suggests that Purdey, Cox, Booker, and one of Booker’s acquaintances potentially committed crimes.

Some of the witnesses cited in the report denied claims that any kind of racist language or threats were directed at Booker. They described a situation in which, in context of a dispute over presence on private property, Booker approached Purdy and members of his group and, claiming to be a county official, threatened them with some kind of administrative action before taking a “very aggressive stance.” This culminated in a fight that involved an exchange of blows and saw Booker pinned against a tree, before eventually being let up, before both parties went their separate ways.

Other witnesses described a posture of racially-tinted intimidation, including reporting that they heard the words “go get a noose” several times.

“I asked him to describe the calling for a noose incident,” Detective Sergeant Trent Stinson, Indiana Conservation Officer, wrote in the report. “He said he heard someone call for a rope. Then, he described the guy in the red shirt, looking him in the eye, and changing the language from rope to noose. Walsh heard him say ‘go get a noose’ several times,” Stinson wrote.

Stinson also noted he asked whether the witness, Frederick Walsh, thought the comment was “just for intimidation purposes, or if it was a legit threat.”

“Walsh said both. He thought they would have enjoyed killing a black person,” Stinson wrote.

The FBI earlier said it was investigating the incident as a possible hate crime.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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