Booker’s Written Account of the Altercation
In the July 5 2020 post, Booker wrote a lengthy written account of the events leading up to the dispute seen in the videos. He started by saying that even typing out his experience was unpleasant for him:
I don’t want to recount this, but I was almost the victim of an attempted lynching. I don’t want this to have happened to me or anyone. It hurts my soul, and my pride, but there are multiple witnesses and it can’t be hidden or avoided.
On July 4th  evening others and me were victims of what I would describe as a hate crime. I was attacked by five white men (with confederate flags) who literally threatened to lynch me in front of numerous witnesses.
(For my family and friends, I’m okay. I was diagnosed with a minor concussion, some abrasions, bruising, and some ripped out hair patches. I’m sorry you’re learning this way, but I don’t have the energy to keep retelling this. You may not want to watch these videos.)
The backstory is some individuals, my friends, and me had all planned on gathering to view the lunar eclipse at lake Monroe, rather than celebrating Independence Day. We were simply looking forward to a night of enjoying nature’s awesome beauty.
Booker described how he and a friend encountered a white man who appeared to be intoxicated as they headed to the lake to meet others. The man was described as wearing a hat with a confederate flag print, and Booker said he and the friend politely tried to sidestep any interaction with the man.
However, Booker said, the individual followed on an all-terrain vehicle, adding that the group allegedly shouted “white power.” Booker said he advised friends in transit to avoid the other group and “any possible conflict arising” from interaction with them. Booker added that he believed the group was actively seeking out a dispute, and he attempted to defray tensions:
On our way into the park we (a friend and I) encountered a large white male (seemingly drunk) wearing an oversized hat with a confederate flag print on it. We were polite and continued on even though the encounter felt awkward. We noticed he began following us in an ATV, and we stopped as he drove up behind us and then stated we were on private property. We relayed to him that we believed the organizers had received permission from the property owners to cross, but apologized and went on to our beautiful site just off the water without any further incident. When we arrived we told the event organizer of the encounter and it was relayed that the individual wasn’t the actual property owner and the organizer apologized.
Even still, we advised our folks still in route to use the public beach way to avoid any possible conflict arising. We later found out that these individuals had blocked off the public beach way with a boat and their ATVs claiming that it was also their land. When folks tried to crossed they yelled, “white power” at them. Honestly, we thought it might just be the one drunken individual with the confederate hat we had encountered earlier who might be instigating the conflict. We decided to just walk back and attempt to simply have a conversation with some of the more sober seeming group members and see if we could smooth things over a bit. 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.
Next, Booker described the events seen in the hectic video clips attached to the post. At one point, Booker quoted one of the men as threatening to “break his arms,” and repeatedly saying “get a noose”:
The individuals were calm for a moment then quickly became aggressive, and we started to simply leave. Rather than go back on the public beach they angrily indicated for us to use the trail, so we complied, and (friend and I) started walking away from them back to our site. A short moment later they began following us yelling. Two of them jumped me from behind and knocked me to the ground. I tussled with the two and another one joined in, then two more. The five were able to easily overwhelm me and got me to the ground and dragged me pinning my body against a tree as they began pounding on my head and ripped off some of my hair, with several of them still on top of my body holding me down. They held me pinned and continued beating me for several minutes seemingly become more and more enraged as they kept trying to seriously injure me and failing. At one point during the attack one of the men jumped on my neck. I could feel both his feet and his full bodyweight land hard against my neck.
At this point the commotion and the sounds one of the men’s young teenage daughter screaming for her father and the others to let me go started attracting more people, (most whom I didn’t know) who started attempting to intervene. The attackers told the growing group, “we’re going to break his arms” (while literally attempting to bend my arms behind me) and then stated to the members of their party several times to, “get a noose”, amongst some other choice slurs. With me still pinned underneath them they kept telling onlookers to leave the, “boy” and that everyone else (all white) could go. Folks then started filming the confrontation, and shouting that they wouldn’t leave me to be killed.
Booker said that the groups continued to stalk and harass them:
I lack the ability to adequately express my thoughts regarding this moment. 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.
They (white allies) got the attackers off me and these drunken individuals continued to follow us. We attempted to explain that we were already on public park land and quite a ways away from any land they could claim, yet they continued to yell slurs and strike bystanders filming, all while beer cans were still in their hands. Others were finally able to stop the attackers from pursuing our group.
Booker said he called 911, but responding officers spoke first to the alleged attackers and were no help:
We called 911 who transferred us to DNR. When DNR eventually arrived they didn’t contact us to ensure that no one was injured, instead they went directly to speak with the other individuals (attackers) first. When they finally came to the beach near our campsite where we were all waiting, multiple individuals who didn’t know each other shared videos and relayed that the individuals had yelled “white power” and a litany of other derogatory remarks, and threatened my life multiple times, and also assaulted an approximately 60 year old man who stopped to film the encounter. Yet DNR refused to arrest any of these individuals, even with multiple the witnesses several who filmed the event and collaborated our accounts. Instead the officers stated they contacted the Prosecutor’s office who relayed there was no immediate need to arrest anyone, and that the officers would simply file a report. To reiterate, this attack occurred on public land and was recorded by numerous individuals who made statements against the attackers for assaulting them and me. I’m gravely concerned that if any other people of color who were to cross their path they could be killed.
Finally, Booker said that given the events of the day, he was unsure of what to do next:
But, I’m not going to cry. I refused to die with these white men atop me while I struggled for every breath. I still refuse to be a hashtag or some racist’s victim. I do know that we as a community can stand against racism if we choose.
Bloomington we’ve had three public incidents involving overtly racists individuals who were then backed by the police within a month. Are we going to wait for a Black person to be lying dead in the gutter before we act? When is enough actually enough?
My enduring gratitude to those who stopped merely being bystanders and acted to aid me, who told the police what they’d seen and heard, and who shared my outrage at DNR’s and our Prosecutor’s office inaction.
If you’d like to help do something, please ask that the Monroe County Prosecutor Erika Oliphant swiftly act to bring these individuals to justice.
Yes, you may share, I’d appreciate it. I’m likely going to log off for the day in an attempt to maintain my peace and wellbeing.
Booker uploaded three videos alongside his post, all of which were under a minute long.
In the first, a crowd of white people can be seen pinning Booker to a tree, while others off-camera shout “let him go!” A longer compilation of the videos was shared to YouTube on July 5 2020, titled “Video documentation of Bloomington resident Vauhxx Booker being attacked, July 4, 2020”:
We found three posts to r/bloomington about the July 4 2020 incident. One requested more information, and was updated to include additional links:
Another shared Booker’s written account:
And a third invited fellow redditors to a protest on July 6 2020:
On r/PublicFreakout, the first of the three videos was shared on July 6 2020:
Local and National Reporting
A local news site, Bloomingtonian.com, published a post about the incident and quoted a purported witness who declined to be identified due to fear of reprisal:
A witness, who said he declined to give his name out of fear for his life, said, “All of our lives were in danger.” And that it was impossible to comprehend the amount of hatred shown by the individuals that attacked, and tried to harm his friend. He said law enforcement officers from the Indiana Department of Resources refused to arrest their attackers, and they decided later the area was unsafe for fear of their lives, packed up their campsite, and left the area. He said he would like the individuals to be held accountable for their actions.
The site also obtained a statement from the Indiana Department of Natural Resources (DNR) on July 6 2020:
“The Indiana Department of Natural Resources, Law Enforcement Division can confirm our officers responded to this call for service. The incident is under investigation and the final report will be forwarded to the Monroe County Prosecutor’s Officer upon completion.
On July 6 2020, USA Today reported on the viral videos and Booker’s account of the events shown in his videos. Booker’s attorney Katharine Liell expressed her belief that the presence of witnesses had likely saved his life:
“I shudder to think that if those other folks hadn’t been there that we would be planning a memorial service,” said Katharine Liell, an attorney for Booker.
Liell said she is confident that the attackers will be arrested.
“I truly believe that Vauhxx would have been killed by those animals if people weren’t there,” Liell said. “I believe those people had lynching on their minds.”
A final report will be forwarded to the Monroe County Prosecutor’s Office, according to [Captain Jet] Quillen with the DNR.
The City of Bloomington’s Mayor and the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office Respond on Facebook
On July 6 2020, the Facebook page “City of Bloomington, IN – Office of the Mayor” shared two posts addressing the circulating videos and post. In the first, signed by John Hamilton, Bloomington Mayor and Nicole Bolden, Bloomington City Clerk, two “apparent racially motivated incidents” were cited:
On behalf of the City of Bloomington, we would like to express outrage and grief relating to two apparent racially motivated incidents reported in our community over the July 4 weekend. A group of individuals physically assaulted and denounced and threatened with racial epithets one Black resident of Bloomington on nearby Indiana state park land at Lake Monroe. And a sheriff’s deputy from a neighboring county questioned and detained another Black Bloomington resident walking down the Bloomington street where they live in an apparent example of racial profiling.
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 require that we come together as a whole, and recognize that racism damages all of us, not just our residents of color. We deserve better, and we must make it happen. Videos of the events remind us of the importance of witnesses and witnessing.
Each of us must do our part to assure justice for those harmed in this weekend’s incidents, and do everything we can to forge inclusion and equity in Bloomington, and beyond.
John Hamilton, Bloomington Mayor
Nicole Bolden, Bloomington City Clerk
A second post indicated that the incidents occurred outside Bloomington’s jurisdiction:
Since learning of these disturbing incidents, Mayor Hamilton has been reaching out to the affected individuals and the legal representative of one of them, to the Monroe County Prosecutor, Governor Holcomb, and law enforcement officials in Monroe and Lawrence Counties.
The mayor is committed to advocating for justice for both community members.
Bloomington’s jurisdiction does not cover either of the events, but we condemn this horrific, discriminatory behavior in our midst and will work with our partners to pursue justice for these individuals and work toward equity and justice for all in our community.
The Monroe County, Indiana Sheriff’s Office also published a statement to Facebook on July 6 2020. In that statement, Sheriff Brad Swain said that the Indiana DNR had jurisdiction over the area in which the incident occurred:
On July 5 2020, Vauhxx Booker shared three short clips of what he described as an “attempted lynching” in Monroe County, Indiana; in the first clip, Booker can be seen pinned to a tree by several white men. The mayor of Bloomington and the Monroe County Sheriff said that they did not have jurisdiction over the area in which the incident apparently took place. Several reports confirmed the responding officers were with the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, but that agency had yet to address the incident on any public channel as of July 6 2020. We will update this story when and if they do comment.