September 24, 1968) is a hunter who shot several deer hunters in
northern Wisconsin on November 21, 2004.
court proceedings prior to his conviction, Vang acknowledged
shooting the hunters, which included women, but challenged the
chain of events that caused a dispute over a deer stand to
become violent and how it escalated into multiple deaths.
six of the hunters died and two were left wounded. Vang, a
naturalized U.S. citizen, is a Hmong immigrant from Laos who
lived in Saint Paul, Minnesota at the time of the shootings. He
is being held at Iowa State Penitentiary.
Vang is the
father of six children, a family shaman, and a hunting
enthusiast. Chai Vang and his brothers came to the United States
from Laos in 1980 and settled in California. Chai Vang lived in
Sacramento and eventually enlisted in the California National
year 2000, Vang moved to Minneapolis, Minnesota. A few years
later, he and his family moved a few miles to the neighboring
city of St. Paul. Both the Minneapolis and St. Paul police
departments answered several calls about domestic violence at
the Vang residences during this time.
On the weekend
of the murders, Vang went out deer hunting with two friends and
their two sons in northwest Wisconsin, a region where deer
hunting is particularly popular, east of Birchwood, Wisconsin
around the town of Meteor.
Meteor has a
large area with a low population. In this region, there is a mix
of public and private land. It is believed that Vang and his
friends began their day on public land, but he later went onto a
private 400 acre (1.6 kmē) tract of land.
November 21, a hunting party of about 15 people were in a cabin
on this private land. One person, Terry Willers, left the cabin
and saw Vang sitting in a deer stand. He used a handheld radio
to ask the people still in the cabin whether or not anyone
should be in the stand. Upon receiving a response in the
negative on that question, he began to approach Vang and called
to him to leave the private land.
directions, Vang proceeded to walk away towards a trail through
a forested area of the property. He was confronted at that point
by five of the hunters from the cabin who had heard Terry
Willers radio message. It must be noted that the area in
question during the event did not contain sign denoting private
after the confrontation are under dispute. At this point the
aggressor of this event will only be known by Willers, Hesebeck,
and Vang; however, four of the eight injured hunters were shot
in the back, and three of these four were hit by multiple
radioed the cabin and said that they had been shot. The others
came out to provide assistance, some riding on all-terrain
vehicles. Vang proceeded to shoot more of the hunters. Within a
short period, five of the hunters were dead and three more were
wounded. Vang then disappeared into the woods. It is believed
that he fired about 20 rounds from a Saiga rifle chambered in
7.62x39 serial number HO-3104079.
apprehended about five hours after the shootings and was placed
in custody of the Sawyer County Jail on November 24, 2004. His
bail is set for $2.5 million.
One of the
wounded hunters died the next day, bringing the toll to six dead
and two wounded.
were part of a group about 15 people who made their annual
opening-weekend trip to the 400 acre (1.6 kmē) property co-owned
by Robert Crotteau and Terry Willers. Among the victims were a
father and son, Robert and Joey Crotteau. A memorial website for
the victims was created Memorial Page
Those who were
1. Robert Crotteau, 42, owned
concrete business in Rice Lake. Married with 3 children. Shot
once in the back.
2. Joey Crotteau, 20, Robert's son
and partner. Shot 4 times in the back.
3. Allan Laski, 43, manager of a
Rice Lake area lumber yard. Married with 3 children. Shot in the
back 3 times.
4. Mark Roidt, 28, a friend of the
Drew family. Shot once in the head.
5. Jessica Willers, 27, a nurse from
Rice Lake who had moved to Green Bay. She was engaged. Shot in
the back twice.
6. Denny Drew, 55, a car salesman in
Rice Lake. Shot once through the stomach and died in the
Those who were
1. Lauren Hesebeck, 48, a manager at
car dealership in Rice Lake. Drew was his brother-in-law. Shot
once through the shoulder, exiting the back.
2. Terry Willers, 47, father of
Jessica Willers. Worked in Crotteaus' concrete business. Shot
once in the neck.
incident attracted nationwide attention and sparked much
controversy. Because of Vang's background as a Hmong immigrant
from Laos, many Hmong feel they have been greatly discriminated
against because of the incident.
upper-Midwest residents say the focus of news reports was on the
potential discrimination against Hmong instead of on the actual
suffering of the victims of the shootings. This included a brief
circulation of bumper stickers entitled "Save a Deer, Shoot a
Hmong" akin to the controversial 1989 campaign of "Save a
Walleye. Spear a Indian" at Rice Lake.
Racism also occurred, many claiming that either Vang or the
white shooting victims was the target of hate crime. Among
incidents that are attributed to crimes toward the Hmong
community due to the events are as follows:
arson destroying a former home owned by Chai Soua Vang.
paint of "killer" on 3 Hmong homes in Menominee.
literature showing up in a Hmong neighborhood in St. Paul.
been conflicting reports about what may have led to the
shootings. According to oral statements by Vang, one of the
local hunters, Terry Willers, took the first shot at him from
about 100 feet (30 m) away, and therefore the shootings were in
self-defense. No shell casing was ever recovered from Willer's
gun even though during the trial Hesebeck admitted to firing a
single shot. Hesebeck testified no shot was ever fired.
forensic analysis of Willer's gun was not performed by the local
law enforcement. Vang claims race may have been a factor,
alleging that during the verbal dispute, some of the local
hunters yelled out racial slurs at him such as "chink" and
On the stand
Hesebeck admited Robert Crotteau had called Vang a 'Hmong
a--hole.' Hesebeck also admitted that he told law enforcement
that Robert Crotteau had problems with trespassers in the past,
specifically citing Hmong hunters, who apparently are known to
travel to Wisconsin from Minnesota to hunt.
The term "Mud
Duck" is a common reference to Minnesota residents used often in
Western Wisconsin, similar to "Cheesehead" being used to
describe Wisconsin residents. The term was used to describe Chai
Vang noting that he was from Minnesota.
The term has
no racial connotation, although the defense made this claim.
This word was used when Willers radioed back to the cabin. It is
unknown how during the altercation, they were able to conclude
that Vang was from Minnesota.
Vang has a
history of domestic violence. In addition, the criminal
complaint states Vang shot four of the victims in the back and
Vang himself admits he shot one victim in the back, which, the
prosecutor's office claims does not help the case for self
defense. In addition, many of the victims were shot multiple
The trial of
Chai Soua Vang began Saturday, September 10, 2005 in Sawyer
County Courthouse. 14 jurors (10 women and four men) were
selected from Dane County, Wisconsin, and bussed about 280 miles
northwest to Sawyer County, where they were sequestered.
Vang told the
jury he feared for his life and began firing only after another
hunter's shot nearly hit him. He detailed for jurors how the
other hunters approached him, and how he responded by shooting
at each one. He says he shot two of the victims in the back
because they were "disrespectful".
with clarity how he killed each victim. While saying on the
stand, "(he wished) it wasn't happening", Chai Soua Vang
contended that three of the hunters deserved to die:
Crotteau deserve to die?" Wisconsin Attorney General Peg
Soua Vang replied.
testified that Joseph Crotteau deserved to die "because he
accused me of giving him the finger and tried to cut in front of
me to stop me from leaving." And Laski deserved to die because
he had a gun, he said. Vang re-enacted his deeds while on the
stand, using his hands and arms to imitate the motions of firing
a rifle. Vang's lawyers commented that some of his seemingly
abnormal remarks were due possibly to the language barrier.
16, 2005 Chai Soua Vang was found guilty of all six charges of
first degree murder and two charges of attempted murder by a
jury of eight women and four men.
8th, 2005, he was sentenced to six consecutive life terms plus
seventy years (40 for two counts of attempted murder plus five
additional years for each count of murder in the first degree).
Wisconsin is one of a handful of states in the U.S. that does
not have the death penalty.
in the California National Guard, 19891995
Sharpshooter qualification badge (mid-level, above
Life Sentence For The Murder Of 6 Hunters
November 09, 2005
A Hmong immigrant convicted of murdering six
deer hunters and attempting to kill two others after a
trespassing dispute was sentenced to life in prison Tuesday with
no chance for parole.
Judge Norman Yackel ordered Chai Soua Vang,
37, to serve six life prison terms, one after the other,
guaranteeing he would never be freed from prison. Wisconsin does
not have a death penalty.
Yackel described Vang as a "time bomb ready
to go off" at the slightest provocation.
"These crimes are not isolated acts, but a
pattern of anti-social conduct," the judge said.
Vang, a truck driver from St. Paul, Minn.,
was convicted on six counts of first-degree intentional homicide
and three counts of attempted homicide in the Nov. 21 slayings.
The homicide charges carry a mandatory
sentence of life in prison, but Yackel could have set a parole
eligibility date for Vang. The judge also sentenced Vang to
three concurrent terms of 40 years in prison on the attempted
The slayings occurred during the state's
beloved deer hunting season and exposed racial tension between
the predominantly white north woods residents and immigrants
from the Hmong ethnic group.
Attorney General Peg Lautenschlager sought
the maximum sentence for Vang, a father of seven children. She
argued Vang would kill again unless he was locked up for the
rest of his life, given his "explosive temperament" and lack of
true remorse or regret.
Vang addressed the victims' families in court
Tuesday but did not apologize.
"I understand your anger, your frustration,
your grief," he said.
According to trial testimony, Vang said he
got lost, went into a tree stand on the private land and was
asked by another hunter, Terry Willers, to leave. Vang said he
apologized and started walking away.
Other companions of Willers arrived, and
there was an angry verbal confrontation and threats to report
Vang to game wardens for trespassing.
Vang testified he fired in self-defense after
one hunter angrily shouted profanities at him and used racial
slurs before another fired at him.
Willers and the other wounded hunter, Lauren
Hesebeck, said no one in their group pointed a gun at Vang
before he opened fire.
Willers and Hesebeck indicated only one shot
was fired at Vang - by Hesebeck, who was already wounded and
some of his friends lay mortally wounded on the ground.
Vang was convicted of killing Robert Crotteau,
his son Joey Crotteau, Denny Drew, Allan Laski, Jessica Willers
and Mark Roidt. All were relatives and friends who gathered to
hunt from the Crotteaus' cabin near Exeland.
In Deer Country, a Puzzling
RICE LAKE, Wis., Nov. 22 -- The survivors said
the shooting was entirely unexpected. Hunters on private property
had told Chai Soua Vang that he was trespassing and needed to leave
the deer stand, where he had taken a position on Sunday morning with
his SKS assault rifle.
Vang climbed down and walked about 40 yards. He
took the scope off his rifle, turned and opened fire, Sawyer County
Sheriff James Meier said Monday. One of the wounded men radioed for
help. Others headed to the rescue, but Meier said Vang also opened
fire on them, leaving five dead and three seriously wounded.
"The rescuers, who also came under fire, checked
bodies for signs of life," Meier said. "They grabbed who they could
grab and got out of there because they were still under fire." They
left the dead in the woods.
Vang, 36, ran out of bullets and fled, the
sheriff said. He was captured several hours later when two hunters
encountered him wandering lost. They took him to a game warden, who
arrested him and remarked: "He was very calm. He didn't say
anything." A sixth hunter died tonight. Shot in the abdomen, Denny
Drew, 55, improved enough during the day to be flown by helicopter
from Rice Lake to a trauma center in Marshfield, Wis., but he died
Vang, who is from St. Paul, in neighboring
Minnesota, and has not been charged, is the sole suspect in an
incident that has been met in deer country with bafflement and
sorrow as much as outrage. People talked of being mystified that a
dispute over a deer stand, not uncommon in the intensity of
Wisconsin's brief hunting season, could become so bloody.
"It's just bizarre," said Mark Miller, who owns
Fatman's Bar, where shooting victim Robert Crouteau -- killed with
his 20-year-old son, Joey -- was a regular. "It's worse when you
know them. I knew Bobby pretty good."
Police said Vang, a former soldier and member of
the Hmong community in Minnesota, has been cooperative. They
declined to say whether he offered his own version of events. Meier
gave the following account to reporters:
Vang was hunting with companions near Birchwood
in northern Wisconsin on Sunday, the second day of the state's
nine-day deer season. He walked onto private property, owned by
Crouteau, next to public land where his group may have intended to
Dressed in blaze-orange gear and camouflage, he
climbed into a vacant deer stand. Terry Willers, walking with at
least one friend, spotted Vang and used his walkie-talkie to radio
back to his base camp and ask whether Vang had permission to be
there. Told that Vang was trespassing, Willers radioed that he would
ask him to leave.
Willers told Vang to go and was soon joined by
two friends. There may have been a confrontation, although details
remain unclear. Vang climbed down and started to walk away before
turning and shooting. As Willers radioed for help, Vang opened fire
"They keyed up the radio and said, 'I've been
shot! Send some more help!' " Meier reported.
Vang emptied his 20-round clip within 15 minutes.
He allegedly shot two people off their all-terrain vehicles, and
chased others. Authorities have not said whether the other hunters
The rescuers managed to retrieve three wounded
friends, put them on their four-wheelers and escape. Someone noted
Vang's hunting license number and wrote it in the dust of an ATV.
The number was relayed to authorities, who issued a bulletin as the
survivors were taken to hospitals.
Vang waded deeper into the thick cover. "He was
wandering aimlessly in the woods, lost," Meier said.
Later in the day, Vang asked two hunters for
help. They took him to a game warden, who recognized his hunting
license tag. He was still carrying his SKS rifle, a simple and
inexpensive firearm often used by local hunters.
"He was out of bullets or might not have been
done yet," speculated Miller, who said Vang had no business being in
someone else's deer stand. "You don't go wander out and sit in
somebody's stand. There is no reason for him to be there.
Something's really goofy."
Rules and etiquette on American hunting passed
from generation to generation have proved unfamiliar to many Hmong,
who come from Laos, where hunting is a practiced skill. The Lao
mountains are among the wildest and least populated areas of the
world. There are no regulations about what, where or when to hunt.
Conservation officers and property owners in several states have
reported conflicts with the Hmong over their hunting practices,
often because they did not understand American traditions. Four
years ago, Minnesota's Department of Natural Resources hired a Hmong
officer to teach the community about local hunting and fishing
Joe Bee Xiong, 44, is a Hmong resident who has
been hunting deer near Eau Claire, Wis., since he reached the United
States from Laos in 1979. He said that he was stunned and horrified
by the killings, and that he wants to know more. He said Vang may
have felt confused or defensive.
"To think that he shot so many people makes me
think maybe something that we don't know about happened," said Xiong,
director of the Eau Claire Area Hmong Mutual Assistance Association
and a former Eau Claire City Council member. "Once in a while when
I'd hunt I'd meet non-Hmong who would say things to me, but I speak
English well and I know the laws, so I would explain myself and walk
away from the situation."
Authorities said Vang spoke English well.
People in Rice Lake talked of little else Monday.
One man said it was freakish and unexpected, like the shootings at
Columbine High School in Colorado. Most everyone seemed to know one
of the victims.
"That's been the hardest part of it. It's a
really close family here," said Lynn D. Koob, a Rice Lake surgeon
who tended to Drew and saw him onto the helicopter. Patricia
Willers, whose husband, Terry Willers, was wounded and daughter
Jessica Willers, 27, was killed, is an operating room nurse here.
The others killed were Al Laski, 43, and Mark
Roidt, 28. Survivor Lauren Hasebeck, 48, is listed in stable
At Fatman's, Richard Kern and two friends stopped
for a drink Monday night after spending the day in the woods. Still
wearing their blaze-orange hats, they could not fathom the crime,
not in a community where hunting eclipses almost everything else
this time of year. Many children take their first aim at a buck as
soon as they turn the legal age.
"Thanksgiving isn't Thanksgiving. It's when deer
hunting starts," said Kern, a 33-year-old painter. "Most of the
people around here have been hunting since they were 12. It's just
something we do."
Nearly every Friday about midnight, when Chai
Soua Vang finished working the second of his two jobs as a truck
driver, he would head north to 40 acres he'd bought near Mora, Minn.
Surrounded by birch and oak trees, he would stay
at his cabin until Monday, unwinding in his oasis and escaping the
demands of life: juggling two jobs, paying two mortgages, providing
for 10 children - including a newborn - and assisting his extended
Two weeks ago, with Minnesota's deer hunting
season winding down and Wisconsin's just starting, Vang headed 80
miles east of his Kanabec County cabin.
He might never leave Wisconsin again.
Vang, 36, is jailed and charged with killing six
hunters and injuring two others after a confrontation in the woods
that turned violent Nov. 21.
Relatives, friends and co-workers from Minnesota
to California had kind words about Vang, but his life story is more
complex. Vang is praised as a caring brother and grandson, yet
California records suggest he had defaulted on child support for
three of the 10 children he has by four women.
He is described as a role model for Hmong
students, but has had previous brushes with the law.
Minneapolis police who were called to Vang's home
on Dec. 24, 2001 say he admitted to waving a handgun and threatening
to kill his wife, though he was not charged with a crime. Co-workers
recall him as a hard-working truck driver, though he had run-ins
with hunting and fishing authorities. .
Shock in Stockton
On the second floor of a shabby apartment
building near downtown Stockton, Calif., Vang's grandfather answered
the door last week in bare feet, a traditional black robe and a cap.
Sitting on a stool and speaking through an interpreter, Nou Cher
Vang, 77, recalled washing Chai Vang with warm water the day he was
born in 1968 in a mountainous region of northwest Laos.
"I cannot hold my tears," the grandfather said.
Chai Vang's father died four years ago, and Nou
Cher Vang was depending on his grandson to help him in his final
"I had hoped he would bury me," he said. "I don't
want to eat or drink because I feel so emotional. I don't know what
to do. He is locked up. I don't have money, no transportation. Now
if I die, I would die like an animal; no one is going to pray for
He remembered his grandson as the smartest of his
grandchildren and the one who best understood the needs of the
family. When Chai Vang visited his grandfather once and saw no food,
he returned with a 100-pound bag of rice.
"What I believe, in my heart, this person is
decent," he said. "If I could talk to him, I'd say: `Why did you do
that? I am your grandfather.' I would shout at him: `Why did you do
Chai Vang's cousins in Stockton, Long Vang, Pao
Vang and Chue Vang, mixed disbelief with memories and anecdotes.
They recalled growing up in Laos in a mountain community named Phun
Hao, with 100 families, no electricity, plumbing or schools. The
children's fathers farmed when they weren't fighting with the CIA
against Communist forces, blocking the Ho Chi Minh Trail during the
"We'd play soldier and we'd use bamboo to make a
gun," Long Vang said. "We'd hide in the bush and go bang, bang,
The extended family left Laos in 1975 and settled
in a refugee camp in Thailand. Chai Vang's family moved on to St.
Paul in 1980 and to Stockton in 1985. Chai Vang would return to St.
Paul in 1999, after serving in the California National Guard,
working as a teacher's aide, then becoming a long-haul truck driver
to make more money.
Chue Vang, 27, remembers Chai Vang working at the
Lao Family Community Center in Stockton, coaching kids in soccer and
"He used to be a role model," Chue Vang said. "He
was a mentor for us at the time."
Pao Vang, 29, sells insurance in Stockton. He
recalled playing in a soccer tournament at age 15 that his older
cousin helped organize.
"A bunch of young people tried to attack me and
my friends," Pao Vang said, recalling how his "patient" cousin Chai
came over and told them not to fight. "He said: `We don't believe in
violence.' He's just a laid-back person."
Now they see pictures of Chai Vang in prison
orange, and it's hard to reconcile those images with their memories.
"We are devastated at what happened," Chue Vang
said. "I wouldn't expect it to happen to Chai. He seemed to be a
reasonable person. It makes us all look bad - but we really don't
know what happened other than it has a negative impact on the Hmong
Among those most stunned by the news of Chai
Vang's arrest was Bee Vang, the Lao/Hmong bilingual outreach liaison
for the Stockton Unified School District.
He remembered how Chai Vang started the Hmong
Club at Franklin High School in Stockton so students would have a
voice, and how he became its first president.
"He was highly respected as a role model and
leader of students," said Bee Vang, who's not related to Chai. Bee
Vang said Chai Vang graduated from Franklin in 1987, attended San
Joaquin Delta College, a community college in Stockton, helped
provide security at the annual Hmong New Year celebration and
captained the community soccer team.
"He just had a big heart for the community," said
Bee Vang, 34. "I was totally shocked when I saw it on the news. I
couldn't believe it happened. He was a very reasonable guy. Even in
high school, he was the most mature Hmong student." .
A sister's story
Mai Vang, 39, has been at her brother Chai's side
since childhood in Sayaboury Province in Laos. Mai is the oldest of
six children; Chai is the eldest of three sons.
As their parents farmed rice and corn amid
hillsides and valleys, the brother and sister were inseparable.
"He and Mai were together all the time," said Her
Vang, another cousin who lives in Minneapolis.
When the extended family fled the Vietnam War for
a refugee camp in Thailand, Mai remembered how Chai fell in love
with hunting, chasing after the elders to shoot birds and squirrels
"Ever since we were little, we have been together
because he was the next child in the family," Mai Vang said through
She recalled how, when the family first emigrated
to St. Paul in 1980, she and her brother delivered Pioneer Press
newspapers before school. When they moved to Stockton after five
years in Minnesota, her brother always tried to be a leader,
volunteering at a community center and doing whatever was asked
around the house, she said.
"He always shared what he had with me," said Mai
Vang, who lives in Blaine and works on a medical-parts assembly
line. "Ever since we had our own families and didn't have a chance
to come and visit one another, he would always take the time to call
and see how I was doing."
During his roughly 14 years in Stockton, Chai
Vang spent six years in the California National Guard, earning a
sharpshooter's badge, and drove a truck across 48 states. Mai Vang
said the family returned to Minnesota in 1999, seeking a lower cost
of living and less demanding work. When their father, Cher Vang,
died four years ago, Mai's brother was there for her.
"I cried and missed my father very much, but we
knew we had Chai as the oldest son in the family, so he would lead
us," she said. "All of a sudden he is in this situation, and it
seems like hope is dying."
She began to sob when she thought of the victims'
families in Wisconsin and her trip last Sunday to visit her brother
in the Sawyer County jail.
"We understand the pain and hardship of the
families that have lost loved ones," Mai Vang said. "We know it is
very hard for them. But it is very hard for us as well to process
all this pain and heartache. We send our condolences to the
families, and all I can do is ask God to be with us all."
When she visited her brother in jail, Mai asked
him what had happened and why he didn't just come home after he was
told he was on private property.
"He told me a man started yelling at him and
called his friends on a walkie-talkie and they surrounded him," she
said. "They yelled and scolded him and cursed him racially."
In a story that contradicts what the two
survivors told police, Chai Vang told his sister that he glanced
back over his shoulder after he began to walk away.
"He told me a bullet flew by his head and if he
hadn't turned around, it would have hit him in the back of the
head," she said. "That's why he took his gun and shot it."
She asked why he didn't then leave before
shooting seven others.
"He said there were just too many people and he
had to do what he did to survive," she said. "All I know is that he
is a very good brother and he would not just want to kill anyone." .
Precursor of rage?
She said her brother has no history of mental
health issues. Court records show one violent outburst, some
complicated child support issues and a few run-ins with authorities
over hunting violations.
On Christmas Eve of 2001, Minneapolis police
responded to a 911 call from two screaming women. When they arrived,
Chai Vang explained that he "got out of hand" during an argument
with his longtime wife, Say Xiong, about their impending breakup.
The couple married as teenagers in a ceremony arranged by their
families and had five children. Xiong had grown tired of his long
He told police he waved a handgun and threatened
to kill her before the women called 911. After spending Christmas in
jail, he was released and no charges were filed.
Say Xiong now lives in Milwaukee with five of
After the breakup, he had a short-term
relationship with a woman named Zia Yang that produced a baby named
Ka Bao in May 2003, according to state Health Department birth
records. About a year ago, Chai Vang began courting Deu Lee Khang.
Family members said they were married in a Hmong ceremony that is
not recognized by state authorities. Khang even bought some land
adjoining Vang's near Mora. The couple's daughter was born two
months ago in a Maplewood hospital.
Documents in Stockton reviewed by the Star
Tribune show Chai Vang was found to have defaulted on child support
for three children of Youa Lee, now ages 8, 5, and 2. All told,
records suggest Chai Vang has 10 children with four women.
Chai Vang's run-ins with wildlife officers
include a 2001 fine of $328 for possessing 93 crappies over the
fishing limit. The next year, while hunting with Ber Xiong in Green
Lake County near Madison, Wis., he was ticketed for trespassing.
When Vang failed to appear in court or pay the $244 fine, an arrest
warrant was issued.
Ber Xiong, who lives in St. Paul and has known
Chai Vang since they were neighbors in north Minneapolis in 2000,
said they had permission to hunt on a farm owned by a relative, but
a neighbor called authorities when she heard gunshots. They told a
deputy they had permission to hunt there, Xiong said, but the deputy
told them they could explain that in court. Xiong paid the fine;
Vang never did. .
About five years ago, Chai Vang began performing
shaman rituals, according to Xiong, who would join him at the
ceremonies. He explained that Hmong shamans are blessed with special
gifts, including the ability to speak to those "on the other side,"
curing ailments and seeing into the future during trance-like
"He has an altar and a special bench and jumps up
and down and sends messages back and forth in a different language,"
Xiong said, through an interpreter. "He would always spend about an
hour talking to the family and explaining what he would do and what
it meant. I would hold him and make sure he didn't fall."
Xiong hadn't seen Vang for a couple of years, but
bumped into him three weeks ago at a funeral in Maplewood.
"We chatted about life, work and hunting and he
said he was planning to head up to Wisconsin," Xiong said. "He had a
very decent haircut, nice clothes and was very friendly and seemed
as stable a person as ever."
Her Vang, the cousin and hunting partner who has
lived near Chai Vang in Laos, Thailand, Stockton and Minneapolis,
said he last saw him a couple of weeks before the Wisconsin shooting.
Her Vang said Chai was never happier than when he
was at his place near Mora, where he'd often invite his relatives to
enjoy the peace and calm.
"Absolutely, life was good," Her Vang said.
Now his family has left their home in St. Paul,
fearing a backlash. Mai Vang, his sister, has received calls
threatening Chai Vang's family.
"It's all so hard to understand," said Ber Xiong,
"what triggered a perfectly decent person to become involved in such
The life of Chai Soua Vang: From Laos to Thailand
Sept. 24, 1968: Chai Soua Vang is born in a
mountainous region in the Sayaboury Province of northwest Laos
to farming parents. He was the second of six children, and the
September 1975: Family moves to a city in
Thailand and then to a refugee camp after Vang's father, Cher
Vang, an infantry soldier, helps U.S. forces block the Ho Chi
Minh Trail during the Vietnam War.
1980: Family emigrates to St. Paul, where
Vang and his older sister, Mai Vang, deliver Pioneer Press
newspapers before school.
1983-84: Vang attends Humboldt High School in
St. Paul, receiving A's in social studies. As a teenager, he
marries Say Xiong in a wedding arranged by his parents.
1985: Vang and his family move to Stockton,
Calif., where he attends Benjamin Franklin High School and
founds the Hmong Club, becoming its first president.
1989: At U.S. Army Basic Training at Fort Sam
Houston, Texas, Vang aims at 40 targets, hitting between 30 and
35 to earn a sharpshooter badge. He joins the California
National Guard for six years.
1990-95: Vang works as a teacher's aide for
disabled students, volunteers at a Lao Family Community Center
and becomes a truck driver, criss-crossing 48 states.
1999: Family returns to St. Paul for better
jobs and a lower cost of living.
Oct. 10, 2000: Vang's father dies. He
promises to take care of his grieving siblings.
2001: Vang lands a truck-driving job in
Plymouth, working the night shift, mostly at a Daimler Chrysler
plant that furnishes parts to dealers.
April 29, 2001: He pays a $328 fine in
Hennepin County for catching 93 crappies over the fishing limit.
Dec. 24, 2001: Police respond to a 911 call
from Say Xiong, who says Vang waved a gun at her and threatened
her life during an argument about their pending separation. He
spends Christmas in jail. She soon moves to Milwaukee with their
April 7, 2002: Vang is fined $244 in Green
Lake County, Wisconsin, for trespassing while deer hunting. A
warrant is issued when he fails to appear in court or pay the
April 30, 2003: Vang defaults on child
support payments for three children of Youa Lee in Stockton.
Oct. 20, 2003: Vang puts down $5,000 in cash
and agrees to pay $1,260 a month in a contract-for-deed deal on
40 acres of wooded land in Kanabec County between Mora and
Hinckley, Minn., near the hamlet of Brook Park.
Sept. 14, 2004: Vang takes a second job
driving a delivery truck for Number 1 Couriers in Edina.
Oct. 6, 2004: New wife Deu Khang gives birth
to Vang's daughter.
Nov. 21, 2004: With Minnesota deer-hunting
season winding down and the Wisconsin season opening, Vang heads
80 miles due east of his Kanabec County home. A confrontation
between Vang and local hunters erupts. Court documents charge
him with six counts of murder and two counts of attempted murder.