Monroe County prosecutor on assault of Vauhxx Booker: DNR investigation of July 4 case is not yet complete

On Saturday, July 4, at Lake Monroe, Bloomington resident Vauhxx Booker was assaulted by a group of white men in a case Booker has described as an “attempted lynching.”

In a press release issued a little before 5 p.m. on Thursday, the Monroe County prosecutor’s office gave a status update: No charges have been filed because the investigation is not yet complete.

cropped Vauhxx Screen Shot 2020-07-06 at 10.06.41 AM
Facebook videos of an incident described by the man being held down in the left frame as an “attempted lynching.” Image links to Facebook post.

The press release, which came from prosector Erika Oliphant, indicates that no charges have yet been filed, because the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, Law Enforcement Division (IDNR Law Enforcement), has not completed its investigation and turned over all its evidence to the prosecutor.

The statement says, “At this time, the Monroe County Prosecutor’s Office cannot speculate as to charges. IDNR Law Enforcement will forward their investigative report to the Prosecutor’s Office immediately upon completion, at which time it will be expeditiously reviewed.”

About the investigation, the press release says, “Since the initial response, IDNR Law Enforcement has been working diligently to complete the investigation.”

About the role of the prosecutor’s office in the investigation, the statement says, “During this time, the Prosecutor’s Office has been in consultation with the investigators, providing assistance where appropriate. However, the Prosecutor’s Office does not direct the actions of IDNR Law Enforcement officers.”

About the time it has taken to interview witnesses and review evidence, the statement says, “This has not been an unusually long investigation thus far.”

One measure of the public interest in the incident is the 35,000 emails and 10,000 phone calls that the prosecutor’s office has received about the incident.

On Sunday, Vauhxx Booker, who is an activist and a member of Monroe County’s human rights commission, posted to Facebook a video showing parts of the incident, including footage of him being held down against a tree trunk.

Booker described part of the episode this way: “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.”

Booker stated in his Facebook post that one of his assailants told his comrades several times to “get a noose.”

The prosecutor’s Thursday press release concludes by saying, “All decisions regarding this incident must be based on the evidence and applicable law. Further, the Indiana Rules of Professional Conduct prevent the Prosecuting Attorney from making any public statement that could materially prejudice any future proceeding regarding this matter.”