Suspect in hunters’ slayings says he was shot at first
HAYWARD, Wis. – The man suspected of killing six people in the woods of northwest Wisconsin told authorities that he opened fire after a group of hunters taunted him with racial slurs and shot at him. He continued firing as they scattered, he said, chasing them down even as they begged for help.
Chai Soua Vang, a Hmong immigrant from Laos, unfolded his version of Sunday’s rampage in chillingly meticulous detail after waiving his right to an attorney, according to court documents filed Tuesday. Charges have not yet been filed, but Vang remains in the Sawyer County Jail. A judge has set bail at $2.5 million.
The carnage came against a backdrop of continuing tension between Hmong immigrants and local hunters in this overwhelmingly white region. Both said that several times a year, they hear of arguments and threats – sometimes at gunpoint – as their cultures clash.
Precisely how Sunday’s confrontation escalated remains in dispute. In the hunters’ version, Vang opened fire unprovoked.
But Vang, 36, described a tense scene charged with the threat of violence well before he began firing.
Lost in the woods, he climbed into a tree stand to search for deer. A hunter approached and told him he was on private property. Vang climbed down and walked away.
Then, Vang said, five or six hunters on all-terrain vehicles drove up, confronting him, demanding to know why he had trespassed. He told them he was lost. They surrounded him, pressing in, and began spitting out racial slurs, Vang said. One of the hunters was carrying a gun. The men told him they would report him to authorities. They cursed him. The slurs continued. Vang, walking away, turned and saw the gun pointed at him. He dropped to the ground. The bullet whizzed past him.
Then, Vang told authorities, he shot the man who had pointed the gun at him. The man dropped. The other hunters ran toward their all-terrain vehicles. Vang kept shooting. More men fell. He chased those still standing, shooting one in the back. He heard the man groan. He walked past the body.
As the hunters’ friends – alerted by walkie-talkie – drove up on two more ATVs, Vang took off his blaze-orange coat and turned it inside out, so the camouflage pattern showed. He reloaded. One of the ATVs whipped past, a man steering with one hand and holding out a gun with the other. Vang shot him and the young woman sitting behind him.
As he ran back toward the tree stand, Vang noticed that one of the men who first confronted him was still standing. “You’re not dead yet?” Vang yelled. And fired at him. Then he ran on.
“While running, Vang decided that he did not want to shoot anybody else,” the report stated, “so Vang threw his remaining ammunition into a swamp.”
When he was arrested a short while later, his semiautomatic rifle was out of bullets.