September 10, 2005

Man killed hunters in self defense: attorney

HAYWARD, Wisconsin (Reuters) - A Laotian immigrant charged
with killing six Wisconsin deer hunters last November acted in
self defense after being surrounded, called a "gook" and shot
at, his attorney said in opening statements on Saturday.

Chai Soua Vang, a 36-year-old truck driver who appeared in
Sawyer County Circuit Court wearing a tie and khaki dress shirt
and slacks, has been charged with six counts of first-degree
intentional homicide and two counts of attempted homicide. If
convicted by a jury of 10 women and four men, he faces life in

Vang is accused of killing the six hunters and injuring two
others in the thinly populated Rice Lake area in northern
Wisconsin. The victims were white, while Vang is from the Hmong
hill tribe.

Vang's attorney, Steven Kohn, said his client was lost when
he climbed a tree stand, which was on private property, to get
his bearings. He was then surrounded by the white hunters,
cursed at and shot at.

"I want you to remember ... who was outnumbered and who
tried to walk away peacefully three times," Kohn said in his
20-minute opening statement. "(Vang) felt he was under siege."

But Wisconsin Assistant Attorney General Roy Korte painted
a different picture in his 90-minute opening statement, saying
Vang shot four of the victims in the back and even ambushed two
of them.

"Bob Crotteau died not knowing that his son was going to
die soon thereafter," Korte said, describing a 42-year-old
victim and his 20-year-old son Joe.

Vang fired first and only Terry Willers, 47, a survivor who
co-owned the land, had a gun handy at the time of the
confrontation. But he was unable to use it since he was the
first one shot, Korte said.

While at least one of the victims had used profanities, no
racial epithets were used, added Korte, who said the victims
had only threatened to report Vang for trespassing.

The Hmong fought for the United States during the Vietnam
War and were persecuted for it. Vang's family immigrated to the
United States from a Thai refugee camp in 1980 when he was 11.
About 46,000 Hmong live in Wisconsin, and the largest urban
concentration is about 100 miles away in St. Paul, Minnesota,
where Vang lives.

Many Hmong hunt, as they did in their native land, which
has resulted in clashes with white hunters. There have been
complaints that Hmong routinely trespass on private lands and
shoot more game than allowed. Vang himself was ticketed once
for shooting too many deer.