BY: IVAN PEREIRA, ABC NEWS
(NEW YORK) — A white man who’s been accused of beating up and shouting racial slurs at a Black man in a filmed incident at an Indiana lake on the Fourth of July contends he isn’t the one who started the violent conflict and says his accuser is not telling the truth.
But Vauhxx Rush Booker, the man seen in the video with his face pressed against a tree, is sticking with his account and continuing to call for arrests.
Attorneys for Sean Purdy, one of the men accused of taking part in the alleged assault, held a news conference Monday in Monroe County, Indiana, and said Booker was putting out “a false narrative” about the incident that took place in Lake Monroe. Booker, 36, said a group of white men confronted him while he was walking to an event at the lake with a friend and later blocked the 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, who called the assault an attempted lynching, said some of his hair was pulled out and that he heard one of the attackers yell for someone to get a noose.
A group of bystanders came to Booker’s aid and some of them filmed the confrontation that showed people screaming at the white men, who are seen pushing Booker’s face into a tree.
Booker posted a video on his Facebook page showing footage taken after the initial confrontation ended, in which the white men are seen cursing at him and the bystanders, with at least one yelling racial epithets. Booker said he called 911 and the police saw the videos that were taken of the incident, but as of Tuesday, there were no arrests.
David Hennessy, one of Purdy’s attorneys, contends that Booker instigated the encounter, threw the first punches, and “started race-baiting.” The attorneys said that their client was only restraining Booker.
Hennessy also said that Purdy “passed” a polygraph test about the incident, specifically regarding questions about Booker’s claims that Purdy used racial epithets and threatened to get a noose.
“Mr. Booker says he survived this near-lynching, yet he stays to videotape people as he race baits them … and he gets one of them to say some racially insensitive stuff,” Hennessy said during the news conference.
The attorney called on Booker to take a polygraph test and offered to pay for it.
“You can’t much prove things with the polygraph, but you can rule things out,” Hennessey said.
Katherine Leill, Booker’s attorney, said in a statement that her client won’t be taking a test and that he stands by his account of the incident.
“This is what repeatedly happens,” Leill said in a statement. “The victim gets blamed and shamed. He gets re-victimized.”
She said that other witnesses filmed the incident and have corroborated Booker’s account. Leill urged authorities to charge the alleged attackers.
“Look at the video. There are witnesses who saw Sean Purdy’s aggression and who heard the racist slurs of his friends. You cannot provoke racism,” Leill said.
The Indiana Department of Natural Resources’ Law Enforcement Division and the Monroe County Prosecutor’s Office have said they are investigating the incident. Leill said Booker spoke with the FBI Monday and that they have opened a hate crime investigation.
A spokeswoman for the FBI told ABC News the agency couldn’t comment on ongoing investigations.
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