Monroe County prosecutor now “actively reviewing” evidence in July 4 Lake Monroe case

Monroe County prosecutor Erika Oliphant has now received the investigative reports from Indiana Department of Natural resources about a case described in a press release late Wednesday afternoon as “an incident that took place in the forest near Lake Monroe on July 4, 2020.”

2020-07-15 Monroe County prosecutor presser

Ten days earlier, Bloomington activist Vauhxx Booker had described himself in a Facebook post as “almost the victim of an attempted lynching.”

On Monday this week, David Hennessy, an attorney who represents Sean Purdy and Caroline McCord, two of the people who were involved in the incident, and whom Booker is accusing, gave a press conference denying Booker’s version of events.

There’s no word on when the prosecutor’s office might make a decision on possible charges.

Booker says he was jumped from behind, that he was dragged to the trunk of a tree, pinned against it, and beaten as his assailants called for a noose.

Hennessy said at Monday’s press conference that the incident was instigated by Booker, who had to be restrained by Purdy, when Booker was jabbing his finger in McCord’s face, and that Booker had punched Purdy three times.

According to Hennessy, there was “no talk of a noose, no talk of a rope, no talk of a lynching, no white power,” as Booker maintains.

A video clip posted by Booker to social media show him being held down against a tree. About that, Hennessy said at Monday’s press conference, “If you go on a neighbor’s property, and you start punching people, you can be restrained. And he ended up against the tree.”

No video footage of the start of the incident seems to exist.

Responding to a question from The Square Beacon about who specifically is doing the review of evidence, deputy prosecutor Jeff Kehr indicated and that he and others in the office, including prosecutor Erika Oliphant herself, were doing the work.

In response to a question about the volume of the material now being reviewed by the prosecutor, Kehr indicated the reports turned over by DNR investigators are “quite extensive” and “deserve a through review.” The material includes several witness statements, according to Kehr.

Asked if statements made at press conferences could be considered by the prosecutor’s office in making a charging discussion, Kehr indicated that if a witness spoke publicly, the prosecutor’s office is allowed to consider it.

Kehr did not want to speculate about how long the review would take.

In response to the prosecutor’s announcement,  Booker and his legal counsel issued a press release calling for swift action: “We want to be confident that Monroe County Prosecutor Erika Oliphant will act swiftly and do the right thing by issuing arrest warrants for these individuals so that they can be held accountable by the legal system.”

The complete text of the Monroe County prosecutor’s press release on July 15, 2020:

On today’s date, the Monroe County Prosecutor’s Office received extensive investigative reports, along with digital evidence, from the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, Law Enforcement Division regarding an incident that took place in the forest near Lake Monroe on July 4, 2020. The Prosecutor’s Office is actively reviewing this evidence.