GREEN BAY, Wis. – A Hmong hunter has been found dead in a wildlife area in a case that is stirring memories of a mass shooting that exposed racial tensions.
Cha Vang, 30, of Green Bay, was found dead Saturday morning, a night after he was reported missing in the Peshtigo Harbor Wildlife Area in northeastern Wisconsin. Investigators have not said how they believe he died but said they are treating the case as a homicide. An autopsy is planned for Monday.
Authorities detained a 28-year-old Peshtigo man, James Nichols, who showed up at a medical center Saturday with a gunshot wound that wasn't life-threatening, said Laurel Steffes, a spokeswoman for the Marinette County Sheriff's Department. He is considered a person of interest but was being held on a parole violation from an unrelated burglary conviction and had not been charged in Vang's death, she said.
Dealings between the Hmong, an ethnic minority group from Southeast Asia, and predominantly white residents of the mostly rural north woods have been on edge since November 2004, when Hmong immigrant Chai Soua Vang, 38, of St. Paul, Minn., killed six white hunters and injured two while trespassing in a private tree stand.
Chai Vang claimed he acted in self-defense after they shouted racial epithets, cursed at him and one fired a shot in his direction. The former truck driver is serving multiple life terms.
Vang is a very common name among the Hmong, an increasing number of whom have moved into the Midwest.
Even before those shootings, Hmong hunters claimed they had been harassed, and whites complained that the Hmong do not respect private property.
People at Green Bay Hmong Alliance Church were told of the killing Sunday morning, though many had heard about it the night before and their first thought was of the 2004 shootings, said Nao Vang, 60.
"Some worry this could be retaliation. People are very concerned about that," he said.
Yia Thao, president of the United Hmong Community Center, said he heard the same thing but urged caution.
"I told them we have to listen to what is actually happening," he said.
Cha Vang's wife, Pang Vue, said the family came to the U.S. two years ago because her husband wanted their five children to have a better life than the one he had growing up in refugee camps, she said.
"Our dream was just starting, just now beginning, and now it falls apart again," Vue, 25, said through an interpreter as dozens of family members and friends gathered at her home Sunday afternoon.
Cha Vang had a hunting license and was with three other people Friday hunting for small game, Steffes said.
Nichols, also a licensed hunter, was alone, Steffes said. She couldn't say what he was hunting or whether he had a weapon. A bow-and-arrow deer hunt was also going on at the time, she said.