A Seymour native whose alleged assault in Monroe County by a group of white men was captured on cellphone video says he also was victimized by those investigating the incident.
In addition to the attackers, Vauhxx Booker, 36, of Bloomington said he was lectured about “private property rights” by an Indiana Department of Natural Resources law enforcement officer even though Booker claims he was on public property near Lake Monroe when the incident occurred.
Booker said as he and a group of friends were heading toward a lunar eclipse viewing party, a large white man who appeared intoxicated began following Booker and his friends in an all-terrain vehicle near the shores of Lake Monroe and later accused the group of trespassing on private property.
“This was public property,” Booker said Tuesday. “Any land within 150 feet of the water is public property.”
Booker, who is chairman of the Monroe County Affordable Housing Commission, said he has the technology to see details of any property in Monroe County.
“So I pulled up my location, which proved this gentleman was not the property owner,” Booker said.
The alleged assailant, along with some companions, later blocked off a public beachway with a boat and their ATVs, claiming it was also their land, Booker wrote on social media. When Booker approached those blocking the beachway, he was told to leave by means of a trail, Booker said. It was after he was already on that trail that he was jumped, Booker said.
Five white men overwhelmed him and pinned him against a tree as someone said “get a noose,” Booker told the DNR. Booker said he struggled to breathe and was beaten for several minutes.
“At one point during the attack, one of the men jumped on my neck,” Booker said. “I could feel both his feet and his full body weight land hard against my neck.”
After Booker’s companions broke up the attack, they began to leave. Although they were briefly followed by the attackers, who yelled slurs, a group of bystanders convinced the attackers to stop following the group, Booker said.
Video of a physical altercation and argument was included in Booker’s social media post. One video clip that he posted shows a white man holding Booker up against a tree, and another depicts a different man yelling profanity and racial slurs in regards to Booker.
Booker said he called 911, who transferred him to the DNR. Booker contends the DNR officer was “very aggressive” toward him and did not even question whether the attacker was the actual property owner.
“Even after I encountered my own possible lynching with the fear and trauma that experience brings, this officer still lectured me about the importance of property rights in Indiana,” Booker said.
Although the officers took eyewitness testimony and photographed his injuries, Booker said nobody called for an ambulance.
After going to a Bloomington hospital on his own, an emergency room physician called the DNR officers to describe her findings from a medical examination, Booker said. However, the doctor was told by one of the officers that they did not list any injuries in their report, he said.
“(The physician) was very adamant that I was in the emergency room with injuries, so that can’t be possible,” said Booker, who said he suffered a minor concussion, cuts and bruises. In addition, he said patches of his hair were pulled out.
Booker said he has no doubt that investigators know who his attackers are, and several websites list the identities of three men as the assailants.
However, Booker said he doesn’t expect any arrests until the DNR and the office of Monroe County Prosecutor Erika Oliphant complete the investigation.
The DNR has provided no other details about what happened or whether any arrests have been made.
In a statement released late Monday, DNR Law Enforcement Capt. Jet Quillen said investigators were sent to a battery at about 8 p.m. on private property that was adjacent to the Monroe Reservoir property. An investigation is continuing, along with additional interviews.
The Indiana Department of Natural Resources, Law Enforcement Division is working diligently with the Monroe County Prosecutor’s Office to ensure a lawful resolution, according to the statement.
The matter remains under investigation, and no further information will be released at this time, according to the statement.
Booker spent his formative years in Columbus. The son of Michael and Annie Booker grew up at a home off of Eighth Street near downtown Columbus.
His mother, who had worked at the Atterbury Job Corps Center, died just a few days short of Vauhxx’s 16th birthday. A short time after her death, the teen’s father, who worked in construction, moved the family to Jackson County. Booker graduated from Seymour High School in 2002 and now lives in Bloomington.
Besides his position with the Monroe County Affordable Housing Commission, Booker has long been a civil rights activist who also serves on the Monroe County Human Rights Commission.