Monday, November 29, 2004

Vang changed his story at least once

As expected, Chai Vang was charged with six counts of first-degree intentional homicide today, and two counts of attempted homicide. The criminal complaint filed today contained one rather interesting addition to the accounts we've been hearing for the last week.

Apparently Chai Vang first told authorities that he didn't shoot anyone at all. Instead, he claimed that Terry Willers, the man who first encountered Vang on the property Willers owned with Robert Crotteau, took Vang's gun and shot the others. Only later did he change his story to an admission that he had shot the eight hunters he encountered.

The complaint also contained a bit more of Hesebeck's and Willers' testimony that wasn't included in the earlier statement.

Hesebeck and Willers reported that Robert Crotteau swore at Vang while ordering him off the property, directed others to write down his hunting license number and threatened to report him to the state Department of Natural Resources.

Vang told an investigator the group made threatening gestures and racial slurs. Hesebeck and Willers said no one in the group threatened the suspect at any time.

After walking roughly 30 yards from Willers and the others, Vang removed the scope from his 7.62 mm SKS rifle. He then turned and faced the group.

Willers told an investigator he unslung his rifle and held it in front of him while directing Vang to leave. Vang then began shooting, according to the victims' account.

Vang has said Willers fired at him first, but missed.

Furthermore, Vang's statement differs on the number of rifles carried by the hunters who arrived at the scene.

With six hunters now killed or wounded, [Al] Laski and Jessica Willers approached the scene on an ATV, in response to Hesebeck's call for help. They drove about 10 to 15 feet past Vang, who shot them off the vehicle.

The suspect told an investigator that Laski was taking a rifle from his shoulder, but no gun was found near the ATV he and Willers were riding.

Here was Vang's statement to the investigator:

Vang stated that Vang then observed another ATV coming with 2 more people on it. Vang stated that the driver of this ATV had a gun on his shoulder. Vang stated that Vang began to run and Vang stated that they saw Vang running and were going too fast to stop and drove past Vang. Vang stated that they stopped approximately 10 to 15 feet past Vang at a 45 degree angle. Vang stated that the man removed the gun from his shoulder with one hand while the other hand was on the handle bars of the ATV. Vang stated that Vang shot 3 or 4 times and both people fell off the ATV and onto the ground.

When I first read this it didn't seem quite right. Based on the few times I've driven an ATV, I imagine it would be quite difficult to drive though the woods with one hand on the handlebars, while holding a gun on your shoulder with the other. Or if your rifle is held there by a strap, then it would be quite difficult to remove the rifle from your shoulder with one hand, while keeping the other on the handlebars.

Now that we know he changed his story at least once, it suggests that his official statement may be less than truthful.

Vang makes his initial court appearance tomorrow at the Sawyer County jail.


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