A Black man's report of assault by white men in Indiana has triggered an FBI investigation.
Vauhxx Booker says the men beat him and threatened him with a noose and partly recorded it on video by witnesses who saved him.
"The reason why I'm here today is simply because these folks, they didn't just stop and watch and film my execution," he said. "They became involved. They became active participants. They put themselves in danger when they stepped forward for me."
The incident took place on the Fourth of July as Booker and friends were joining a group to watch the lunar eclipse. Booker says a white man stopped them, saying they were crossing private land.
"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."
Booker and others went to talk to the men, but the conversation devolved and the men set upon him. They dragged Booker to the tree and heard someone saying "get a noose."
"People started screaming and shouting for them to let me go," Booker says. "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 says. He later adds, "I didn't want to be a hashtag."
The men eventually let him go and a doctor later diagnosed him with a minor concussion and other injuries.
The Indiana Department of Natural Resources says its Law Enforcement Division "is working diligently with the Monroe County Prosecutor's Office to ensure a lawful resolution" and that the case is still under investigation.
There are two investigations, one local and one at the federal level.
"The FBI has opened an investigation into the attack on Vauhxx as a hate crime," Booker's attorney, Katherine Liell, wrote. "We welcome this inquiry and feel we are one step closer to justice."
A representative for the U.S. Attorney's Office in the Southern District of Indiana confirms that the office is "aware of the incident" and is monitoring the situation.
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