It’s been nearly a year since Bloomington activist Vauhxx Booker found himself surrounded and pinned against a tree.
Last July 4, Booker and a group of friends went to Lake Monroe to celebrate the holiday. The details of what happened next depend on who you ask.
Booker says a group of White men jumped him and threatened to hang him with a noose after he and some friends engaged the group to discuss their alleged racism and one member’s hat with a Confederate flag.
The White men say Booker knowingly trespassed on private property and got into the face of Sean Purdy’s girlfriend before punching Purdy, and that’s how the incident became physical.
Booker took to Facebook to tell his story, and it went viral – the post was shared nearly 240,000 times, and the videos that captured some of the incident now have over 8 million views. National and international news outlets picked up the story.
In Bloomington, the incident set off a week of protests and activism calling for justice for Booker, and a GoFundMe for him has raised over $24,000.
“It was very humbling, first and foremost, to see the community really rally together and people put aside differences, and really make a statement of values for our community,” Booker said during a March interview.
Monroe County prosecutor Erika Oliphant charged Purdy with criminal confinement, battery resulting in moderate bodily injury and intimidation, all felonies.
Jerry Cox, Purdy’s friend, was charged with two felonies: aiding, inducing or causing criminal confinement and battery resulting in moderate bodily injury. He also faces misdemeanor charges of intimidation and battery.
The report from the Department of Natural Resources also listed charges of trespassing and battery that could apply to Booker, but Oliphant declined to pursue those charges.
Oliphant later recused herself from the case after allegations she was favoring Booker. In a document filed in Monroe Circuit Court at the time, Oliphant said she “was not conceding an actual conflict of interest,” but wanted “to avoid the appearance of impropriety.”
The case is now under the purview of Johnson County Superior Court Judge Lance Hamner and former Hendricks County prosecutor Sonia Leerkamp.
It’s been moving slowly through the legal system, in part because of the coronavirus pandemic, but also because both sides have been trying to use restorative justice to come to a resolution instead of going to trial.
The FBI is also investigating the incident as a hate crime.