F.B.I. Investigating Case of Black Man Who Feared 'Attempted Lynching' by White Group
Vauhxx Booker said he sustained a minor concussion
A Fourth of July incident in which bystander video captures a black man pinned to a tree by a group of white people whose members shout racial slurs and call out "get a noose" is being investigated by the F.B.I.
"I don’t want to recount this, but I was almost the victim of an attempted lynching," the victim, Vauhxx Booker, who sits on the Monroe County, Indiana, Human Rights Commission, wrote on Facebook. "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."
Chris Bavender, a spokeswoman for the FBI's Indianapolis office, confirms to PEOPLE the agency is investigating the incident. She declined to provide further information.
Booker was walking through the woods with a friend to meet others on state park land at Lake Monroe, near Bloomington, to watch the lunar eclipse on Saturday when they were stopped by a white man who said they were crossing private property, according to the lengthy post Booker wrote describing the incident.
"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," he wrote.
"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," Booker wrote. "When folks tried to cross they yelled, 'white power' at them."
That led to a second encounter, as Booker says he returned to the man and his group hoping to "see if we could smooth things over a bit." Instead, he alleges, the man and members of his group “jumped me from behind."
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"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," he wrote.
"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," he wrote. "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 told NPR: "There was a point when I'm on the ground, and I can feel them kicking me, and I'm struggling to breathe, that I hear a woman in the crowd yell out, 'Don't kill him.' And in that second, I realize that she's talking about me: Don't kill me."
"I saw the face of George Floyd in my mind," he said. "I didn't want to be a hashtag."
In one of three short video clips of the encounter posted to Facebook by Booker, a member of the group that had surrounded him says repeatedly to the others, "Let him go."
In another, apparently filmed after Booker was released, a different man screams, “You nappy-headed b----, you happy about this? You happy with your five white friends?"
Booker, who was with several white friends at the time, wrote that he was "diagnosed with a minor concussion, some abrasions, bruising, and some ripped out hair patches."
The Indiana Department of Natural Resources, which oversees the Lake Monroe state park property, was alerted after a 911 call was placed. The DNR said the incident "is under investigation and the final report will be forwarded to the Monroe County Prosecutor's office upon completion," reports Indianapolis TV station WTHR.
On Monday, at a protest outside of the Monroe County Courthouse attended by Booker and others who called for the arrests of those involved, a car that raced through the gathering injured at least two people before driving away, reports WTTV. Neither the driver nor those involved in the alleged attack on Booker were immediately identified or charged
At the protest, Booker thanked those who intervened, affirming that "Black lives matter," he said.
“I’m here alive today because folks stopped being bystanders," he said. "They didn’t just film me."
The assault reported by Booker drew condemnation from Bloomington Mayor John Hamilton and City Clerk Nicole Bolden, who linked the incident with another that they said occurred over the holiday 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," they said in a statement, repeating Booker's account. "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 said. "They deserve nothing less than our collective condemnation."
To help combat systemic racism, consider learning from or donating to these organizations:
- Campaign Zero (joincampaignzero.org) which works to end police brutality in America through research-proven strategies.
- ColorofChange.org works to make the government more responsive to racial disparities.
- National Cares Mentoring Movement (caresmentoring.org) provides social and academic support to help Black youth succeed in college and beyond.