Differing Accounts in Wis. Hunt Shootings

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On the shooting deaths of six Wisconsin hunters, both the accused gunman and a survivor offer a similar account of what happened except for one key detail: who fired first.

Survivor Lauren Hesebeck (search) told investigators Chai Vang (search), 36, of St. Paul, Minn., turned around after a verbal exchange and started shooting his rifle from 40 yards away.

But Vang told Sawyer County investigators he began firing only after one of Hesebeck's hunting buddies, Terry Willers, shot at him with a rifle from about 100 feet away and missed.

Vang, a Hmong immigrant from Laos, claimed the hunters taunted him with racial slurs, ordered him off the private land and warned him he would be reported, according to a document filed Tuesday.

Hesebeck's version, contained in the same statement, makes no mention of that type of language or verbal hostility, other than saying Vang used profanity at one point.

Hesebeck, who was released from a hospital Tuesday after treatment for a shoulder wound, told investigators Willers shot at Vang after Vang fired first but missed.

Both accounts agreed on what happened next, with Vang shooting the others as more people from the deer camp arrived at the scene, summoned by Hesebeck using a walkie-talkie to call for help.

Vang said he continued firing as the group scattered, and at one point chased one of the hunters and shot him in the back, only to find the man had no gun, the document states.

Authorities have said there was only one gun among the victims. According to investigators, it's believed Vang fired at least 20 shots.

No one answered the door at the Hesebeck home in rural Rice Lake on Tuesday. Members of his family and another victim's family planned to talk with reporters Wednesday.

Sunday's shootings occurred after Vang got lost while hunting, climbed into a tree stand on private property and then got into the confrontation with Willers and others hunting with him.

The victims were part of a group of about 15 people who made their annual opening-weekend trip to the 400-acre property co-owned by Robert Crotteau and Willers.

Killed were Crotteau, 42; his son, Joey Crotteau, 20; Al Laski, 43; Mark Roidt, 28; Jessica Willers, 27; and Denny Drew, 55, all from the Rice Lake area. Terry Willers, Jessica's father, remained hospitalized Tuesday in fair condition.

Vang, an immigrant from Laos, was arrested about four hours after the shootings as he emerged from the woods with his empty semiautomatic rifle. Five people died in the woods; a sixth died Monday in a hospital. Two others were wounded.

There have been previous clashes between Southeast Asian and white hunters in the region. Hunters have complained the Hmong do not understand the concept of private property and hunt wherever they want. The tension once led to a fistfight in Minnesota, and a Hmong bow hunter in Wisconsin this fall reported having at least two white hunters point guns at him.

About 24,000 Hmong live in St. Paul, the highest concentration of any U.S. city. Hmong leaders condemned the shootings and offered condolences to victims' families.

"What happened in Wisconsin is in no way representative of the Hmong people and what they stand for," said Cha Vang, no relation to the suspect.

"We stand before you as representatives of the greater law-abiding Hmong community to unconditionally — unconditionally — condemn these atrocities."

New details about Vang began to emerge Tuesday.

Military records obtained by The Associated Press show he spent six years in the California National Guard and earned a sharpshooter qualification badge. But his primary role during his time in the Guard, from 1989-95, involved clerical duties.

After his discharge, he spent two more years in the Individual Ready Reserve. His records also include a Good Conduct medal.

Circuit Judge Norman Yackel ordered Vang jailed Tuesday on $2.5 million bail. He ruled that evidence submitted to him was sufficient to hold Vang on suspicion of murder and attempted murder, pending the filing of formal charges.