The local Indiana activist was battered, threatened with racial slurs, and now faces battery and trespassing charges from the incident.
Vauhxx Booker made news late last month after accusing two white men of attacking him last year at Lake Monroe, Indiana in July 2020. He was then himself charged in connection to the incident, which has resulted in him calling for the special prosecutor on the case to resign.
A local activist who lives in Bloomington, Indiana accused Sean Purdy and Jerry Edward Cox of assaulting him as he was on his way to a park with some friends. During the incident, Booker said one of his attackers used a slur and yelled for someone to “get a noose.”
Purdy, who spoke with state investigators after the incident, said that the dispute began after he told Booker and his friends that they were on private property. He claimed that Booker had punched him during their dispute.
After the melee, Purdy and Cox were arrested, and Monroe County prosecutor Erika Oliphant charged them with criminal confinement, intimidation and battery—all felonies. Oliphant then recused herself from the case after the charges were filed and special prosecutor Sonia Leerkamp took over.
While multiple crimes by Purdy and Cox were discovered in evidence by state investigators, it also noted that Booker committed offenses as well. The report said Booker could be potentially charged, but Oliphant had declined to do so.
All that changed on Friday, Aug. 6, when Leerkamp charged Booker with felony battery and misdemeanor criminal trespass.
Almost immediately Booker slammed the charges, accusing Leerkamp of retaliating against him after refusing to participate in a mediated resolution with Purdy and Cox. He took to the public with a press conference on Monday, Aug. 9, where he explained that he was open to resolving the case, but backed out after being told he would have to sign a confidentiality agreement and publicly forgive Purdy and Cox.
“I’m not going to back down from this,” he said. “I’m not going to just let these folks go on about their life like they didn’t victimize me. I’m going to stand up for myself.”
Booker and his attorneys are calling for Leerkamp’s resignation.
“Once again, there’s nothing more American than charging a Black man in his own attempted lynching,” Booker told reporters. “I wasn’t surprised because, for the entire year the special prosecutor has pressured and bullied me at every turn that if I didn’t … let charges be dismissed that she would charge me.”
“It wasn’t out of any new evidence or any shocking revelation,” he added. “It was simply that, once again, I was telling a white person no and they were going to punish me.”
Booker’s attorney, Katharine Liell, called Leerkamp’s filing charges “unprecedented.”
“I’ve been practicing well over 30 years in this state and I’ve only done criminal defense my entire career and I have never seen a special prosecutor open a new case and file it against somebody a year later,” she said.
Leerkamp responded in an emailed statement to NBC News, writing, “Mr. Booker is presumed innocent of any charges that have been filed. That being said, unlike Mr. Booker, I am ethically restrained from commenting upon the evidence prior to its presentation at trial. I am doing my best to apply the law to the facts and follow the principle that we are a country of laws, not men.”
Booker detailed the alleged assault in a Facebook post and accused Purdy and Cox of threatening to lynch him.
He also shared several videos including one which showed a man pinning Booker against a tree. In said post, Booker noted that he and his friend apologized to Purdy and Cox for walking through the property to get to the public park, also highlighting how others from their group tried to “smooth over” what had turned into a dispute because the incident had escalated.
The two men—Purdy and Cox—umped him “from behind and knocked [Booker] to the ground.
He was then dragged, pinned against a tree, and pounded upon his head.