Sunday, November 21, 2004

Five Dead, Three Wounded

This happened very close to where I grew up.

The violence began shortly after a hunting party saw a hunter occupying their tree stand, Sawyer County Chief Deputy Tim Zeigle told KSTP-TV of St. Paul, Minn. A confrontation and shooting followed.

One of the shooting victims radioed back to the deer shack for help, he said. When more hunters came to the scene, they also were shot, Zeigle said.

My dad says he's never seen so many police cars, ambulances, and helicopters around the area.

UPDATE: Watched a bit of the report on the local news. They aren't releasing the names of the victims at this point. I'm not sure whether they were locals or not--by which I guess I mean, I'm not sure if I know them since everyone knows everyone in that area.

There will be a press conference tomorrow morning which should have more details. I'm curious about the kind of rifle the shooter was using for deer hunting since he was able to kill five people and wound three others sniper-style. I mean, did he actually stop and reload?

UPDATE II: More details here.

The shooting started when two hunters returning to their rural cabin saw the suspect in one of their hunting platforms in a tree, Sawyer County Chief Deputy Tim Zeigle said. The platforms or "tree stands" allow hunters to see deer without being easily seen themselves.

Both of those hunters were wounded and one of them radioed friends at the cabin a quarter-mile away. Other members of their group responded and they also were shot, he said.

"It's absolutely nuts. Why? Over sitting in a tree stand?" asked Zeigle.

Zeigle said the suspect was "chasing after them and killing them," with a SKS 7.62 mm semiautomatic rifle, a common hunting weapon.

About 20 shots were fired but it was unclear if any of the hunters had fired at the suspect or who might have shot first, Zeigle said. There was just one gun among the eight people killed or wounded, he said.

The dead included a a teenage boy and a woman, and a father and son, Zeigle said. Some of the victims were shot more than once. All five were from the Rice Lake area, about 15 miles southwest of Birchwood in northwestern Wisconsin, he said.

Authorities found two bodies near each other and the others were scattered over 100 yards.

The media around the world is calling this a "hunting dispute," which makes it sound like a bunch of hunters arguing and then turning their rifles on each other. In an earlier story the AP called it "an apparent shootout over who could occupy a hunting platform." Note that there was only one gun among the eight people wounded and killed. And note the reference to "chasing them down and killing them." This was not a "hunting dispute."

But "hunting dispute" is what the world will hear, (and it's really odd to see the name of your tiny Wisconsin hometown in the byline of a news story in Australia) and it will paint a negative image of hunters.

The SKS 7.62 mm semi-automatic rifle used by the killer is legal for deer hunting. The AP news story calls it "a common hunting weapon," but I understand (and I'm no gun expert) that such a weapon is rarely used because they don't have the kind of accuracy you want if you're deer hunting. The St. Paul Pioneer Press used the scare word "assault rifle," so look for gun control advocates to be all over this incident. And watch for the depiction of hunters--99% of whom are very responsible about hunting, firearms, and property rights--as a group of argumentative types running around the woods with assault rifles.

Also, look for cultural issues to emerge because the killer is a Hmong immigrant.

It's a terrible, tragic situation (and extremely rare around these parts) but the fallout will likely be quite interesting.

UPDATE III: Mitch corrects my assumption about hunting with "assault weapons" in the comments section of his blog entry.

The SKS has, actually, become quite a common deer-hunting rifle; the 7.62x39mm round used in the SKS (and AK-series) has about the same stopping power as the very common 30-30 cartridge, and is cheaper than dirt. And the SKS rifle, like most military rifles and unlike most hunting rifles, is breathtakingly reliable, very difficult to jam under sloppy, wet, muddy conditions, and a piece of cake to maintain.

Thanks, Mitch. My experience is limited in this area.

UPDATE IV: Jiblog has some similar thoughts about how this story has been reported by the AP and others.


At 4:10 PM, Blogger Sandy said...


Found your blog through Mitch's comments. Sounds like we're in the same neck of the woods. The hubby and I just caught pieces of the story last night, (and then caught the details this morning.) Five Dead? Man, I was hoping the crawl was wrong on that.

At 8:55 PM, Blogger Drew said...

I grew up there and still have family there, but I live a few counties away now.


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