- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 23, 2004

ASSOCIATED PRESS

HAYWARD, Wis. — A man suspected of killing six hunters told investigators that he began firing after a shot was fired at him and some of the victims called him racially derogatory names, according to documents filed yesterday.

A judge set bail at $2.5 million for Chai Vang, 36, of St. Paul, Minn., who is suspected in the killings of six deer hunters and the wounding of two on Sunday.

Bail was set after investigators filed documents arguing there was probable cause to hold Mr. Vang in the shootings. No charges had been filed.

Mr. Vang, a Hmong immigrant from Laos, was arrested Sunday about four hours after the shootings as he emerged from the woods with his empty SKS 7.62 mm semiautomatic rifle.

Sawyer County Sheriff Jim Meier said a dispute over Mr. Vang’s use of a tree stand — a raised platform used by hunters — on private property preceded the gunfire.

Mr. Vang told investigators that he didn’t realize he was on private property when he climbed the tree stand, according to the probable cause statement released yesterday.

A hunter told Mr. Vang that he was on private property, and Mr. Vang started to leave as other hunters approached, the statement said. Mr. Vang said the hunters surrounded him and some hurled racial slurs.

Mr. Vang said he started walking away but looked back to see the first hunter point his rifle at him and fire a shot that hit the ground 30 to 40 feet behind him, the statement said.

Mr. Vang told investigators that is when he started firing at the group, according to the statement.

Five persons died at the scene and a sixth died Monday at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Marshfield. Two were wounded.

The dead were identified as the landowner, Robert Crotteau, 42; his son Joey, 20; Al Laski, 43; Mark Roidt, 28; Jessica Willers, 27; and Denny Drew, 55. Miss Willers’ father, Terry Willers, remained hospitalized yesterday in fair condition, and the other wounded hunter was released.

According to an account Sheriff Meier gave Monday, two or three hunters spotted a man in a hunting platform on Mr. Crotteau’s land, then radioed back to the rest of the party at a nearby cabin and were told no one should be there.

One of the men asked the intruder to leave, while Mr. Crotteau and the others headed to the scene, according to the account.

“The suspect got down from the deer stand, walked 40 yards, fiddled with his rifle. He took the scope off his rifle, he turned and he opened fire on the group,” Sheriff Meier said.

The suspect was “chasing after them and killing them,” Deputy Tim Zeigle said. “He hunted them down.”

Authorities have said there was only one firearm among the eight hunters, and it was not clear whether anyone returned fire.

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