Charges filed against men filmed allegedly assaulting Black man at Indiana lake

BY: IVAN PEREIRA, ABC NEWS

(NEW YORK) — Indiana prosecutors on Friday charged two white men who were filmed allegedly assaulting a Black man on July 4.

Sean Purdy and Jerry Cox are facing battery, confinement and intimidation charges for their alleged roles in an attack on Vauhxx Rush Booker at Lake Monroe, according to the Monroe County Prosecutor’s office.

Booker, 36, an activist and member of the Monroe County Human Rights Commission, and other witnesses filmed the encounter in which Purdy, Cox and other men were seen pinning Booker to a tree and pulling his arm. Booker said he heard the men say they were going to get a noose and that they shouted racial slurs.

Local police and the FBI are investigating. A representative for the Monroe County prosecutor’s office said the suspects had not been arrested as of early Friday afternoon.

“This is not a happy moment. It’s a necessary moment,” Booker said in a Zoom news conference Friday afternoon. “We have a legal system and what I want now is our neighbors to decide the fate of these individuals.”

An attorney representing Purdy couldn’t immediately be reached for comment. It’s unclear whether Cox has an attorney at this time.

Booker revealed on Friday that he tested positive for COVID-19 that morning and is currently under home quarantine. He said he took the test on Wednesday after his doctor advised him to do. Booker’s attorney, Katherine Liell, said she reached out to Purdy’s attorney to inform him of her client’s positive test.

Booker said a group of white men confronted him as he was walking with a friend to a Fourth of July event at the lake, blocking his path to the beach.

Booker said in a Facebook post that he and a friend “decided to just walk back and attempt to simply have a conversation” with the group, but that group members “quickly became aggressive,” and when Booker and his friend walked away “two of them jumped me from behind.”

Booker has called the assault an attempted lynching and said some of his hair was pulled out.

A group of bystanders came to Booker’s aid and filmed some of the incident while pleading with the group to release him. The group of white men are seen cursing at the bystanders. Booker and the bystanders called the police and showed them the videos, but no one was immediately taken into custody.

Booker posted his video and recounted the incident on Facebook. Over the last two weeks, investigators have questioned several witnesses and collected more video, according to police reports.

Purdy’s attorney, David Hennessy, contended at a news conference earlier this week that Booker started the incident and threw punches at his client. Hennessy contended Booker “race baited” his client.

Liell said her client attempted to fight back after the group started the fight.

Booker told reporters he’s determined to seek justice and begin the healing process.

“We’ve seen a lot of mudslinging and name-calling,” he said, “and I would like for us to take a moment to think about our shared humanity.”

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