Law enforcement agencies are investigating if the man suspected of killing six deer hunters and injuring two others was involved in the unsolved slaying of a deer hunter three years ago in a nearby Wisconsin county, a detective said Tuesday.
Clark County Sheriff’s Department Detective Kerry Kirn said he has exchanged frequent calls with investigators in Sawyer County since Monday morning.
“I can tell you we have been in contact with authorities from Sawyer County to address that,” Kirn said. “It is premature to speculate if there is a connection.”
On Nov. 23, 2001, Jim Southworth was shot to death as he hunted on family land 10 miles east of Neillsville in one of the only other homicides ever to be linked to Wisconsin’s deer hunting season.
Southworth was shot twice in the back and both bullets exited his chest, an autopsy found.
Witnesses reported a pickup truck with three men inside on a road near where Southworth’s body was found, about 80 miles south of Sunday’s shooting.
The three men were described as Asian from 5-foot-4-inches to 6-feet. They were driving a silver or gray Nissan or Chevrolet pickup truck, possibly a late 1980s model with a light-colored fiberglass topper.
Chai Soua Vang, 36, of St. Paul, Minn., who is suspected of shooting eight hunters Sunday, is 5-foot-4-inches, according to a court document. Vang has owned a 1987 Nissan pickup, according to an online search service. According to court records, Vang allegedly shot several of Sunday’s victims in the back.
The Sawyer County rampage was allegedly sparked by a dispute over Vang using a deer stand on private property. One of the theories Clark County authorities have been pursuing is that Southworth was shot after confronting a trespasser.
Officials said that Vang was hunting with two other people on Sunday, before he became lost and wandered onto the private property. Police are looking for those other people.
Vang did have an out-of-state license to hunt in Wisconsin in 2001, said Mike Bartz, a Department of Natural Resources warden manager. He also had a license in 2000, 2002 and this year, he said.
Kirn called the three people being sought in Southworth’s murder “persons of interest.”
“To our knowledge, those are the only three people who we haven’t identified who were in that area that day,” Kirn said.
Kirn said he could not comment on whether Vang has been or will be questioned in the Southworth case. Investigators from the state Department of Justice are investigating both cases, he said.
“They need to do their investigation and when all facts come out, and they will relay that to me, and we’ll make the comparison,” Kirn said.
The Sawyer County Sheriff’s Department, the first to respond to Sunday’s shooting, referred questions to the Department of Justice. A spokesman there declined to comment on whether a connection was being investigated between the two cases.
Told of the two cases, a retired FBI agent said his experience tells him that they could very well be related.
“The odds of the two being unrelated are astronomical, I would say,” said Bob Dwyer, who now works as a private investigator in Florida.
But an absence of physical evidence in the 2001 case could make it difficult to prove such a connection, Dwyer said. The best way to tie two crimes together is to match weapons or bullets, he said.
Kirn declined to comment on what kind of gun was used to kill Southworth or if they recovered bullets in the woods where he was shot. A warden said last year that investigators were looking for casings.
The hunting rifle Southworth was carrying—a Ruger model 77 bolt action .03-06-caliber—was missing.
Robert Imrie, AP, Nov. 24
HAYWARD, Wis.—A man suspected in the killings of six hunters told investigators he began firing after a shot was fired at him and some of the victims called him racially derogatory names, according to documents filed Tuesday.
A judge set bail at $2.5 million for Chai Vang, 36, of St. Paul, Minn., who is suspected in the killings Sunday of six deer hunters and the wounding of two others.
Bail was set after investigators filed documents arguing there was probable cause to hold Vang in the shootings. No charges had been filed.
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 Vang’s use of a tree stand—a raised platform used by hunters—on private property preceded the gunfire.
Vang told investigators he didn’t realize he was on private property when he climbed the tree stand, according to the probable-cause statement released Tuesday. The county has thousands of acres of public hunting land, some of it “virtually around” the private property where the shooting occurred, Meier has said.
A hunter approached and told Vang he was on private property, and Vang started to leave as other hunters approached, the statement said. Vang said the hunters surrounded him and some called him racial slurs.
Vang said he started walking away but looked back to see the first hunter point his rifle at him and then fire a shot that hit the ground 30 to 40 feet behind him, the statement said.
Vang told investigators that’s when he started firing at the group, according to the statement.
Five people died at the scene and a sixth died Monday in a hospital. Two others 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, who died Monday at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Marshfield. Willers’ father, Terry Willers, remained hospitalized Tuesday in fair condition, while the other wounded hunter was released.
Officials said the victims were part of a group of 14 or 15 who made their opening-weekend trip to the 400-acre property an annual tradition.
“This was his first time out with that group. He was delighted to be invited,” said Karen Roidt, mother of victim Mark Roidt.
According to an account Meier gave Monday, two or three hunters spotted a man in a hunting platform on Crotteau’s land, then radioed back to the rest of the party at a nearby cabin and were told no one should be there. Meier did not indicate who the account came from.
One of the men asked the intruder to leave, while Crotteau and the others in the cabin hopped on their all-terrain vehicles and 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,” Meier said.
He 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 unclear whether anyone returned fire.
Some Hmong leaders questioned whether racial differences may have figured in the shootings.
There have been previous clashes between Southeast Asian and white hunters in the region. Locals in the Birchwood area, about 120 miles northeast of the Twin Cities, have complained that the Hmong do not understand the concept of private property and hunt wherever they see fit.
Sang Vang said his brother has lived in the United States for more than 20 years and is a U.S. Army veteran.
Vang’s arrest made some Hmong citizens in his hometown fearful of a backlash. Hmong leaders in St. Paul condemned the shootings Tuesday and offered condolences to victims’ families.
“What happened in Wisconsin is in no way representative of the Hmong people and what they stand for,” said Cha Vang, who said he was representing “the greater law-abiding Hmong community.” He is no relation to Chai Vang.
About 24,000 Hmong live in St. Paul, the highest concentration of any U.S. city.
Minneapolis police said they arrested Chai Vang on Christmas Eve 2001 after he waved a gun and threatened to kill his wife. No charge was filed because she didn’t cooperate with authorities, spokesman Ron Reier said. St. Paul police said there had been two domestic violence calls to his home in the past year, but both were resolved without incident.
Brenda Walker, VDARE, Nov. 23
Chai Vang, 36, is reportedly a naturalized citizen who has been living here 25 years. Many of the news stories refer to a culture clash between Hmong and Americans, which is not exactly true. Now newspapers that regularly publish multicultural puff pieces lauding diversity must admit to ongoing conflict between Hmong immigrants and Americans over property rights. Not only that, the Hmong are known for taking egregious numbers of fish and deer in violation of posted conservation limits which are there to preserve species for everyone.
The term “culture clash” presumes difference between equals, while the Hmong refugees have refused to assimilate to American laws regarding property and wildlife management, among others including monogamy
In fact, Mr. Vang is himself an apparent polygamist a detail tucked unobtrusively within a longish article. “While the police reports on the December 2001 domestic incident indicate Say Xiong was the suspect’s wife, on Monday the Associated Press interviewed a woman named Deu Khang , 37, who identified herself as Chai Soua Vang’s ‘cultural’ wife.”
For more about the unfortunate American victims, see the photo and posting at ImmigrationsHumanCost.