Monday, November 22, 2004

Update on the Sawyer County shootings

A very complete story about the shooting in Sawyer County is here.

[Suspect Chai] Vang, who had a hunting license but not for Wisconsin, had wandered onto 400 acres of hunting grounds owned by Robert Crotteau after becoming lost. He eventually came upon an empty deer stand, which are used by hunters to better spot deer without being seen, and climbed into it, not knowing he was on private property, Meier said.

At around noon, one of the members of the group of 14 or 15 on the annual opening-weekend trip to Crotteau's property approached him and asked him to leave. Crotteau and the others in the cabin were notified of the situation and hopped on their all-terrain vehicles and headed to the scene.

Vang crawled down from the tree stand and began to walk away. He then turned around and began firing his SKS 7.62 mm semiautomatic rifle at the group, shooting at the victims multiple times.

"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," Meier said.

A shooting victim radioed others in the party in a nearby cabin for help. Those people raced to the scene in ATVs, but they were shot at by Vang while attempting to rescue their friends and family.

The suspect was "chasing after them and killing them," Sawyer County Chief Deputy Tim Zeigle said. "He hunted them down is what he did."

Rescuers from the cabin piled the living onto their vehicles and headed out of the thick woods. They left the dead behind.

"They grabbed who they could grab and got out of there because they were still under fire," Meier said.

This is why I don't think "hunting dispute" is an accurate description of what happened. It wasn't an argument that escalated into gunfire. Vang left the tree stand, started walking away, but then just turned around and started shooting. He was still shooting as members of the hunting party tried to get the wounded away from the scene.

I mentioned earlier that we should watch for the cultural angle to be played up. And indeed, it's already started.

Locals have complained that the Hmong, refugees from Laos, do not understand the concept of private property and hunt wherever they see fit. [Ilean Her, director of the St. Paul-based Council on Asian Pacific Minnesotans,] said a fistfight once broke out after Hmong hunters crossed onto private land in Minnesota.

The arrest has left some Hmong citizens in his hometown fearful of a backlash.

Michael Yang, a Hmong activist, said various Hmong groups held an emergency meeting Monday to talk about how to respond. Those at the meeting heard stories from some Hmong hunters about friction with white hunters.

The shooting has already provoked racial tension in an area of Wisconsin where deer hunting is steeped in tradition.

"It's pathetic. They let all these foreigners in here, and they walk all over everybody's property," said Jim Arneberg, owner of the Haugen Inn in nearby Haugen.

Oh, look. They got a local man from the victims' home town (that is to say, someone who certainly knew the victims' and was likely quite upset) to make a racially charged statement.

Given that the shooter is a Hmong immigrant, I'd wondered if there was some sort of communications barrier that resulted in the massacre. But Vang came to the U.S. in 1980--when he was probably 11 or 12. He served in the army, is a naturalized citizen and speaks good English. So language certainly wasn't an issue. And how could he live here for two thirds of his life and not come to understand the concept of private property? I do not condone any racist behavior toward the Hmong, but I don't quite buy the "cultural differences" excuse.

It might be important to note the following:

Minneapolis police said they arrested Vang on Christmas Eve 2001 after he waved a gun and threatened to kill his wife. No charge was brought because she didn't cooperate with authorities, spokesman Ron Reier said. St. Paul police say they were called to Vang's house twice in the past year on domestic violence calls, but both were resolved without incident and no police reports were filed.

I'd suggest that the incident had less to do with race or culture and more to do with the fact that the shooter has a history of violence.

I just talked to my folks who had been at a memorial service for the victims at the Birchwood village hall. The article linked at the top of this post includes the names of the dead and the wounded. Please remember their families in prayer, especially during this holiday week.

UPDATE: Fox News just reported that one of the three men wounded by the shooter has now died.


At 9:42 PM, Blogger Dan Cummings said...

Nice updates Drew. Thanks!

At 10:01 PM, Blogger Drew said...

You're welcome. I don't think there's much more to add now until we can get detailed accounts from the wounded victims--specifically, what triggered the shooting rampage, if anything.

At 10:03 PM, Blogger Drew said...

And you know . . . there were three other subjects I was going to write about today, too. And now it's getting late and it probably won't happen.


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