A Hmong immigrant accused of shooting eight fellow deer hunters in the Wisconsin woods was charged Monday with six counts of murder and two counts of attempted murder.
Chai Soua Vang, 36, of St. Paul, Minn., could get life in prison if convicted in the shootings, which left six people dead and two wounded. Wisconsin does not have a death penalty.
The gunfire broke out Nov. 21 after Vang reportedly was caught trespassing on a hunting platform on some of the victims’ land. In court papers, Vang, an immigrant from Laos, said that he opened fire after the others took a shot at him first and berated him with racial slurs. Two of the survivors told authorities Vang fired the first shot.
According to the court papers, Vang told investigators that when he saw one of the hunters still standing, he yelled, “You’re not dead yet?” and fired another shot and ran. His rifle was empty when he was arrested several hours later.
Atty. Gen. Peg Lautenschlager, whose office is prosecuting the case, refused Monday to address specific questions about what took place, including who she believed fired the first shot.
On Sunday, Vang’s lawyers said it was clear Vang fired the fatal shots, but why he fired was still in question.
Vang, a father of six, is part of the St. Paul area’s 25,000-member Hmong community. More than 75,000 of the Hmong people have immigrated to the United States, having faced persecution in Laos after being recruited by the CIA to rescue downed U.S. pilots and fight the then-North Vietnamese.
Vang remained in jail on $2.5-million bail.
Funerals for two of the shooting victims were held Monday.
“Most of us are just as confused and lost and stunned as we were when we first heard about it,” the Rev. Jim Powers told several hundred mourners at a service for Jessica Willers, 27. “We need to work through this, and we need to help others work through it.”
At another church, mourners paid their respects to Dennis Drew, 55, a father of three who grew up on a dairy farm, served in Vietnam and returned to raise his family.