FBI investigating alleged attempted lynching of civil rights activist

The FBI announced is investigating the reported assault and alleged attempted lynching of civil rights activist Vauhxx Booker by a group of white men at a southern Indiana lake.

Vauhxx Booker, who is black and a member of the Monroe county human rights commission, said the men pinned him against a tree, shouted racial slurs and one of them threatened to “get a noose” at Monroe Lake near Bloomington over the Fourth of July weekend.

Much of the assault was captured on cellphone video by Booker’s acquaintances and shows the 36-year-old on all fours being held down by a white man as witnesses shout for his release.

“The FBI is investigating. We have no further comment,” spokeswoman Chris Bavender told the Associated Press on Tuesday.

Booker’s attorney, Katharine Liell, said the FBI was questioning witnesses and that charging decisions could be made soon.

“We want this investigated as a hate crime. It was clearly racially motivated,” Liell said. “We will continue our quest every day until some justice is served.”

Booker welcomed the FBI’s involvement.

“I’m sad that this happened, honestly,” Booker said. “I just wanted to have a good time with some friends.”

Liell also complained that law enforcement officers with the Indiana department of natural resources “did not move rapidly enough” in response to reports of the attack. She said their failure to make arrests at the scene warrants further investigation from other law enforcement agencies.

Bloomington’s mayor, John Hamilton, said at the news conference that police continue to search for two people accused of knocking a woman unconscious and dragging a man with their car at a protest over the assault on Booker.

Ryan Pedigo, police captain, told the Associated Press that the confrontation happened near the Monroe county courthouse in Bloomington on Monday evening.

A male passenger got out of a red Toyota car and went to move an electric scooter that had been left in the road near the protest site, Pedigo said. A 29-year-old woman approached the car and placed her hands on the hood, he said.

The driver accelerated into the woman, launching her onto the hood. A 35-year-old man then grabbed the driver’s side of the car and held on as the vehicle continued to accelerate. Both were eventually flung to the ground and the car fled the scene, Pedigo said.

The woman was knocked unconscious and suffered a cut to her head, while the man scraped his arm. She was transported by ambulance to a hospital but her injuries are not believed to be life-threatening, Pedigo said. Authorities have not released the identities of the injured nor said if they were participating in the protest.

The red Toyota has not been located and investigators are still trying to determine the identities and location of the male passenger and female driver, police said in a news release.

Several protesters provided police with cellphone footage, Pedigo said.

“The event last evening is being actively and aggressively investigated right now,” Hamilton said. “We are taking whatever steps it takes to bring justice to that event.”

The protesters had gathered in Bloomington, about 50 miles (80km) south-west of Indianapolis, to demand arrests in the assault on Booker.