HAYWARD, Wis. – A Hmong (search) immigrant accused of gunning down eight fellow deer hunters in the Wisconsin woods was charged Monday with six counts of murder and two counts of attempted murder.
Chai Vang (search), 36, of St. Paul, Minn., could get life in prison if convicted in the shootings, which left six people dead and two wounded. Wisconsin does not have a death penalty.
The gunfire broke out Nov. 21 after Vang was caught trespassing on a hunting platform on some of the victims' land.
In court papers, Vang, an immigrant from Laos (search), said that he opened fire after the others took a shot at him first and berated him with racial slurs. He allegedly told investigators he shot some of the victims because he thought they were going for guns or had guns, and that he didn't shoot at others although he could see they were armed.
According to the complaint, Vang told investigators he saw one of the hunters still standing, yelled, "You're not dead yet?", fired a shot and ran. He had an empty rifle when arrested several hours later.
Two of the survivors told authorities Vang fired the first shot.
Attorney General Peg Lautenschlager, whose office is prosecuting the case, refused Monday to address specific questions about what took place, including who she believes fired the first shot.
She also declined to say whether the state was looking into a possible connection between Vang and the unsolved killing of another hunter three years ago.
Vang is jailed on $2.5 million bail.
Funerals for two victims were held Monday.
"Most of us are just as confused and lost and stunned as we were when we first heard about it," the Rev. Jim Powers told several hundred mourners at a service for Jessica Willers, 27. "We need to work through this and we need to help others work through it."
At another church, mourners paid their respects to Dennis Drew, 55, a father of three who grew up on a dairy farm, served in Vietnam and returned to raise his family.