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Mayor Hamilton’s Statements on Recent Race-Related Events in Bloomington

Last updated on July 13, 2020, at 11:30 a.m.

 

 

Together with City Clerk Nicole Bolden, Mayor Hamilton issued the following statement on July 6

 

On behalf of the City of Bloomington, we would like to express outrage and grief relating to two apparent racially motivated incidents reported in our community over the July 4 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. 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 deserve nothing less than our collective condemnation. They require that we come together as a whole, and recognize that racism damages all of us, not just our residents of color. We deserve better, and we must make it happen. Videos of the events remind us of the importance of witnesses and witnessing. Each of us must do our part to assure justice for those harmed in this weekend’s incidents, and do everything we can to forge inclusion and equity in Bloomington, and beyond.

 

 

Please consult the list below for links to additional comments the mayor has made in Bloomington and in various media outlets.

 

Fox 59–Click here.

Press conference July 7 during which Booker’s attorney announces that the FBI is investigating the incident as a hate crime;       includes remarks by other elected officials and two witnesses to the attack.

WGCL/Glass in the Afternoon–Click here.

Yahoo News–Click here.

MSNBC with Joy Reid–Click here.

NBC News–Click here.

CBS This Morning–Click here.

The Cut (New York Magazine)–Click here. 


 

 

Frequently Asked Questions

 

What apparently racially motivated incidents happened in the Bloomington area over the July 4 weekend, and where did these incidents occur?

 

  1. Bloomington resident Vauhxx Booker reported on social media (Facebook) that on July 4 five individuals assaulted and restrained him, denounced him with racial epithets, and threatened him with a noose on property adjacent to the Cutright State Recreation Center at Lake Monroe, south of Bloomington city limits in Monroe County. When Booker’s companions called 911 to report the incident, the call was transferred to the Department of Natural Resources, which has jurisdiction over the state park property at Lake Monroe. The DNR dispatched Indiana Conservation Officers to the scene to collect evidence and witness statements. According to Booker’s description on social media, he was diagnosed with a mild concussion and bruising, and patches of his hair were pulled out.       
  2. Monroe County resident Darwin “Dee” Davis Jr. reported on social media (Twitter) that on July 2, a sheriff’s deputy from a different county, Lawrence County, detained him as he was walking along a street in his neighborhood, asking him for his identification and whether he had been the person “looking in cars” parked along the street as reported by a neighbor. The out-of-town deputy, who lives in the neighborhood, was not in uniform at the time of the incident. This encounter took place near the intersection of South Rogers Street and Estate Drive, just south of the Bloomington city limits.   

 

 

Is there video evidence of these incidents?

 

Yes, videos show portions of each incident.  

  1. Vauhxx Booker incident:  https://www.facebook.com/vauhxx/posts/10222147157086001 and youtube.com/watch?v=2Yql5MmMDjI&feature=emb_title
  2. Darwin “Dee” Davis Jr. incident:  https://twitter.com/DeeDavisX/status/1279107572092620801

 

 

Which governmental entity has jurisdiction over each incident?

 

  1. The State of Indiana’s Department of Natural Resources has jurisdiction over the criminal investigation into the Booker incident, and the Monroe County Prosecutor’s Office will decide what criminal charges, if any, to file. The U.S. Department of Justice also has jurisdiction to consider whether federal violations, including federal hate crimes, may have occurred, implemented through the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the U.S. Attorney Office covering this area. 
  2. The Monroe County Sheriff’s Department has jurisdiction over the Davis incident, as it occurred in Monroe County just outside of the City’s boundaries.

 

 

How are these incidents being investigated? 

 

  1. The Indiana Conservation Officers (ICO), the law enforcement division of the Department of Natural Resources, is providing the Monroe County Prosecutor’s office with their investigative reports, witness statements, and digital evidence. The prosecutor's office will review the materials submitted and make a determination of charges to pursue.
  2. The Davis incident is not currently being formally investigated, so far as is known. Inquiries may be made to the Monroe County Sheriff. The incident could be reported as a bias incident through the county government.

 

 

Have the perpetrators of each incident been charged with any crime?

 

  1. Not as yet. The prosecutor's office will review the materials submitted and make a determination of charges to pursue.
  2. Davis’ detention is not being investigated as a criminal act.

 

 

Could these incidents be considered hate crimes?

 

It was announced July 7 that the Federal Bureau of Investigations has opened an official investigation into the assault on Booker as a hate crime, according to Booker’s attorney Kitty Liell.

 

Locally, the Monroe County prosecutor will decide whether or not to ask a judge to consider the Booker incident as a “bias crime.” Indiana law uses the phrase “bias crime” rather than hate crime and defines a bias crime as an offense that was committed “because of the color, creed, disability, national origin, race, religion, or sexual orientation of the injured person.”

 

 

Does the Indiana State Code provide for the punishment of hate crimes?

 

If a crime is considered a bias crime, that fact may be considered an “aggravating circumstance” which may be taken into account by a judge when imposing a sentence. NOTE: Many observers were frustrated with the hate crime bill, calling it weak and vague. By the time Indiana finally passed hate crimes legislation in 2019, it was one of only five states without hate crimes legislation on its books.

 

 

What has Mayor Hamilton said about the incidents?  

 

Together with City Clerk Nicole Bolden, Mayor Hamilton issued the following statement on July 6:  https://bloomington.in.gov/news/2020/07/06/4510.  Please find additional comments the mayor has made in the various media outlets listed above.

 

 

How is the City of Bloomington helping achieve justice for those affected by these actions?  

 

Since learning of these disturbing incidents, Mayor Hamilton has been reaching out to the affected individuals and their legal representatives, to the Monroe County Prosecutor, Governor Holcomb, and law enforcement officials in Monroe and Lawrence Counties. The mayor is committed to advocating for justice for both community members.  Bloomington's jurisdiction does not directly cover either of the events, but we condemn this horrific, discriminatory behavior in our midst and will work with our partners to pursue justice for these individuals and work toward equity and justice for all in our community. 

 

 

What happened after the rally in support of Mr. Booker, Monday evening?

 

After hundreds of people rallied on the courthouse square Monday afternoon and evening, July 6, in solidarity with Mr. Booker and all people of color, some people stayed to protest in the streets downtown. At approximately 9:26 p.m., officers from the Bloomington Police Department responded to the intersection of N Walnut Street and E 6th Street in reference to a personal injury crash. Upon arrival, it was determined that the vehicle involved in the incident had fled the scene, last seen headed eastbound on 6th Street.

 

Investigators determined that the incident began near the intersection of N Walnut Street and E 4th Street. It was reported that an electric scooter had been left in the roadway in the eastern-most lane of travel. A red Toyota passenger car had approached the scooter and a male passenger of the car had gotten out and thrown the scooter out of the lane of travel. A 29- year-old woman then approached the vehicle and stood in front of it with her hands on the hood of the car. The vehicle then began to accelerate, causing the woman to go up onto the hood of the car. Another individual then grabbed the car and clung to the side of it as it accelerated rapidly northbound on Walnut Street. The two individuals remained on the vehicle until the vehicle reached the intersection of Walnut Street and 6th Street, where the vehicle quickly turned eastbound on 6th Street. This turn caused both the man and the woman to fall off the vehicle.

 

The 35-year-old man that had clung to the side of the vehicle suffered abrasions to his arms as a result of falling from the vehicle. The 29-year-old woman that had been on the hood was said to have been knocked unconscious and suffered a laceration to her head. She was transported to the hospital by ambulance for treatment of her injuries. Several individuals present at the time the altercation began provided investigators with cellphone footage of the incident. 

Video footage of the incident:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y0q37YiMpgI

 

 

Has the driver been identified and charged?

 

On Wednesday, July 8, the Bloomington Police Department (BPD) apprehended the driver.  Christi Bennett, age 66, was taken into custody in Scottsburg, Indiana on Wednesday evening by BPD officers and transported back to Bloomington for an interview. Bennett has been associated with a Scottsburg address. After being arrested, Bennett was transported to jail, and ultimately released on bond. The BPD will present its reports and evidence to the Monroe County Prosecutor’s Office, which will make a determination of appropriate criminal charges.  

 

Bennett was remanded to the custody of the Monroe County jail for the following offenses:

  • Criminal Recklessness, level 6 felony (two counts)
  • Leaving the Scene of an Accident Resulting in Serious Bodily Injury, level 6 felony
  • Leaving the Scene of an Accident Resulting in Bodily Injury, class A misdemeanor.

 

The passenger Bennett was transporting at the time of Monday’s incident was released after being interviewed by investigators.

 

 

Is it legal for protestors to bear weapons, and block traffic? 

 

We have a long tradition of active protests in Bloomington, and we honor that and welcome it, while doing all we can to keep everyone safe. While it is illegal to block off a city street without permission from the Board of Public Works, we have often exercised our discretion in choosing not to enforce such violations in cases of well-intentioned protests or civil disobedience. Traffic mixing with protests is always a concern, and we will continue to manage situations as safely as possible. The event on Monday evening was of great concern.  We commend our Bloomington Police officers for having apprehended the driver and expect that the Monroe County Prosecutor's Office will make the appropriate criminal charges.    

 

It is not illegal to openly carry a firearm in public in Indiana. It is illegal knowingly or intentionally to point a firearm at another person (IC 35-47-4-3). We encourage residents to call our state legislators to change gun control laws, which prohibit us locally from taking sensible steps to control gun carrying in Bloomington.

 


 

What should you do if you are the victim of a hate incident or hate crime in Bloomington?

 

As with any crime, you should reach out to the Bloomington Police Department at 911 in the case of emergency, or 812-339-4477 for non-emergencies. If you have experienced other forms of discrimination or bias, please reach out to the Bloomington Human Rights Commission (BHRC) at 812-349-3429 or human.rights@bloomington.in.gov to make a confidential report. You have 180 days after the alleged discriminatory action to file your complaint, but the sooner you do so, the better. The commission protects human rights in Bloomington, as that term is defined by the Bloomington Human Rights Ordinance. The BHRC investigates allegations of discrimination in employment, housing, public accommodations, or education on the basis of race, sex, religion, color, national origin, ancestry, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, housing status, or veteran status. It also investigates complaints of familial status discrimination in housing. Reported bias incidents dating back to 2011 are compiled at the commission’s site

If the incident happened outside of Bloomington, but within Monroe County, call the Monroe County Human Rights Commission, at 812-349-2525. If it happened outside of Monroe County, but within the state of Indiana, contact the Indiana Civil Rights Commission, at 1-800-628-2909.