By now some of the initial shock is beginning to wear off and the earnest search for answers begin. Certainly at this point we may not know many of the facts about what went wrong in the Northern Wisconsin woods last Sunday, but we do know six hunters will not be sharing Thanksgiving with their families tomorrow. As we continue to search for the WHY…let’s take a moment to review what we do know to be true so far about this unfortunate tragedy, mixed in with a few predictions for the future:
The Act Was Senseless
No matter what was said or what actions were taken to remove the trespasser from the private property…the situation did not rise to a level where loss of life was a necessary outcome. Killing another human being is an action “as a last resort” and it should not arise from the mere act of trespassing no matter how heated the situation may have become.
Vang Has A Documented History of Law Violations & Violence Toward Others
Police and DNR records show that Vang has had numerous contacts with law enforcement officials. From over-harvest of crappies, to violence against his wife, the record appears to be clear that Vang has shown a certain propensity to act in a threatening manner and with disregard for proper lawful conduct.
Vang’s Demeanor After Arrest
Reports by the authorities have indicated that Vang was very calm and cooperative in the hours after arrest. One would think that if he had acted in self-defense (having been fired upon first) this action would transfer into a more excited demeanor. Instead, I sensed a certain calmness consistent with someone who knew their life was never being threatened.
Killing Was Execution Style
At one point one of the witnesses stated that when Vang found a victim still alive he stated something to the effect…oh, you’re not dead yet. And shot the victim again in the back. Others stated that Vang was actually chasing his victims before making the fatal shot.
Vang Did Not Seek Out The Authorities After The Shooting
Perhaps the biggest factor in my mind that negates a self-defense plea is the fact Vang was wearing full camouflage (by this time) and was not arrested for four hours afterwards. A reasonable person would have attempted to notify the authorities and not acted in a manner to evade capture.
Eventually Vang Will Be Made Out To Be The Real Victim
As much as I hate to say it, the media and the Hmong community will twist the events of this horrific day and attempt to turn Vang into the real victim. Even though six people lay dead, Vang will in time become the poster child, of sorts, for a community that feels it is disadvantaged and often threatened by the majority in this new land. In time, I predict attitudes will shift to show Vang was a folk hero to his people because he lashed out to defend his honor. This sort of thing has happened before with another much publicized killing that occurred over 20 years ago (read about that story here).
Conflicts Between Hmong and Whites Over Hunting Is Nothing New
The Hmong population seems to view hunting much differently as most of the rest of the sporting population. For many Hmong, hunting is more of a subsistence hunting where game taken for the table is of paramount importance. I remember once riding with a conservation officer in Minnesota over by Red Wing. We stopped to check some Hmong hunters who had shot common songbirds, such a robins, for food. I believe a successful hunt for them is bringing food back home for the family…no matter in what form it may be. In contrast, many of us measure hunting success as spending quality social time with family and friends only to use hunting as the excuse for the get-together. Attitudinal differences are bound to make hunting clashes between social groups somewhat inevitable.
More Bullets Likely Would Have Meant More Dead
It’s apparent that Vang only stopped the killing after he exhausted his supply of 20 rounds of ammunition. No doubt had he carried more ammunition there likely would be more people dead or injured at the end of this tragic day.
This Event Is Not Positive For The Image of All Sportsmen
The media has had a field day trying to paint a negative picture about hunters fighting over a tree stand. But this is not about hunting, per se. This incident is about controlling tempers and acting with rational behavior during a disagreement. Nevertheless, hunting will be blemished by this incident and the anti-gunners will only point to the fact that the killer carried an “assault weapon” even though we know that definitionally this is not accurate. Had the killer used a typical rifle with superior ballistics carried by most deer hunters it may have left fewer survivors in the aftermath, but the non-hunting public will never understand this fact.
No doubt about it this horrific story will see many more blog entries in the days, weeks and months to come. I truly believe that the incident that happened in Wisconsin’s woods last Sunday will have long-lasting and interesting consequences, many of which we cannot possibly understand at this point. My sincere hope is that some good comes out from this tragedy, perhaps in the form of greater cultural awareness. The more we learn and the more we discover what went wrong will only serve to better understand how tragedies such as this can be prevented in the future.
© 2004 Jim Braaten. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction without Prior Permission.