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Suspect Says Hunters Fired at Him First

Bail Set at $2.5 Million for Chai Vang

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Chai Vang

Chai Vang

Police photo
Updated November 24, 2004
The Laos immigrant who is accused of killing six deer hunters in Wisconsin says he only fired at the group after they surrounded him, used racial slurs, and shot at him first, according to court papers filed in the case.

In court papers used to show probable cause to arrest Vang on suspicion of murder, Vang's version of events differed from the account given by authorities a day earlier of the incident, in which six hunters were killed and two others wounded.

Police said Vang wandered on to private property and climbed onto a deer stand. When the property owner saw someone in the stand, he asked him to leave as others began to arrive at the scene. Survivors told police that Vang began walking away and then turned and opened fire. There was no mention of anyone in the hunting party shooting at Vang.

According to the court papers, Vang gave the following account:

Vang got lost while hunting and found a vacant tree stand, which he said he did not realize was on private property. When property owner Terry Willers approached and told Vang that he was on private property, Vang told him that he had not seen a "no trespassing" sign and he left the tree stand and began to leave.

Vang told police that Willers made a call on a walkie-talkie and five or six men on ATVs came to the scene. He said the group surrounded him and some used racial slurs. He said as he walked away he turned and saw Willers point a gun at him from about 100 feet away. Vang dropped to a crouch and Willers shot at him. The bullet hit the ground about 40 feet behind him, Vang said.

Chased, Shot Hunter in the Back

Vang said he removed the scope from his gun and returned fire, continuing to shoot as members of the private party began to run. According to the court papers, Vang chased one of the victims, got within 20 feet of him and shot him in the back. That victim was Joey Crotteau, 20, reports said.

Van told police as he began to run, another ATV with two people on it drove past him and he fired three or four times. Both people fell off the ATV. He said he then saw another one of the men was standing. Vang yelled, "You're not dead yet?" and fired his last bullet in the man's direction.

Vang said he then ran away. He was arrested four hours later as he was escorted out of the woods by another hunting party.

Police said there was only one gun among the eight hunters at the scene of the shootings. Terry Willers, who Vang said fired at him, is one of the survivors of the shootings.

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