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Tuesday, November 23, 2004  

News: Not a simple hunter's tale

When I read about the hunter in Wisconsin who shot eight people yesterday, I visualized the news item as a blog entry. As other bloggers can attest, it becomes habitual to do that after you've had the weblog habit for a while. I even had a headline: "Hunter bags 5, maims three." The blog entry would have been simple. It might have taken one of two forms. A reminiscence about growing up around people who hunted, and, getting rid of the last gun I owned when I was in my early twenties. I could have talked about the bear that got away. Or, I might have blasted a myth: that hunting is a pure-hearted, safe sport. Actually, self-injury or accidental shooting of others is not unusual at all. Nor are drunken hunters who couldn't shoot straight if their lives depended on it. I would have sought and published statistics to support my claim. I thought the story was about an intoxicated or insane man who became so possessive of a hunter's roost that he shot anyone who came near it. But, today the saga of the hunter who shot eight people took an unexpected turn.

The Associated Press reports.

HAYWARD, Wisconsin (AP) -- A man suspected in the killings of six hunters told investigators he began firing after he was shot at first 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, Minnestora, who is suspected in the killings Sunday of six deer hunters and the wounding of two others.

. . .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.

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.

A hunter approached Vang to tell him 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 started calling 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.

That's when Vang told investigators he started firing at the group, and some fell to the ground and others tried to run away, according to the statement.

Vang is said to have killed five people at the scene. Another died in the hospital. Two survived their wounds. Friends of the deceased and authorities portray the gunman as aggressive, pursuiong and slaying unarmed people. They say only one weapon was on hand for the eight victims, and it may not have been fired.

The St. Paul area has had tensions between its predominantly white population and immigrant Hmong for years. Conflicts have involved unusual courtship rites, hunting and trespassing.

Chai Vang, a veteran of the U.S. armed forces, has a history of domestic violence. He waved a gun in one incident.

It is premature to speculate about how this episode will go down in history. The number of casualties guarantees it some notoriety. Will it be man versus society or man versus himself? A sane man or one damaged by mental illness? Were the victims the innocents Wisconsin authorities describe them as, or did they harass and fire at Vang because of his race?

Holidays give us more free time to ponder the things we read about or see on the news. As the crime of the week, the killings in Wisconsin will be one of the topics many of us will give at least some thought to. Initially, I thought it would be a simple tale of a hunter gone awry. It isn't.

What's the art?

A Simonov 7.62 mm Carbine (SKS).

3:25 PM