A Hmong immigrant charged with killing six Wisconsin deer hunters last November acted in self-defense after being surrounded, shot at and called a racial epithet, his lawyer said in opening statements Saturday.
Chai Soua Vang, 36, of St. Paul, Minn., is charged with six counts of first-degree intentional homicide and two counts of attempted homicide. If convicted by the Dane County jury of 10 women and four men, he faces life in prison.
Vang's attorney, Steven R. Kohn, said his client was lost when he climbed a tree stand, which was on private property, to get his bearings. The other hunters surrounded him, cursed at and shot at him.
"I want you to remember . . . who was outnumbered and who tried to walk away peacefully three times," Kohn told the jury. Vang "felt he was under siege."
But Wisconsin Assistant Attorney General Roy Korte said Vang shot four of the victims in the back and ambushed two of them.
"Bob Crotteau died not knowing that his son was going to die soon thereafter," Korte said, describing a 42-year-old victim and his 20-year-old son, Joe.
Also killed were Al Laski, 43; Mark Roidt, 28; Jessica Willers, 27; and Dennis Drew, 55, all of the Rice Lake area.
Vang fired first, Korte said, and only Terry Willers, 47, a survivor who co-owned the land, had a gun handy at the time of the confrontation. But he was unable to use it because he was the first one shot.
Although at least one of the victims used profanities, no racial epithets were used, added Korte, who said the victims had threatened to report Vang for trespassing.