Details emerge as man charged with murder
A 28-year-old Peshtigo, Wis., man was charged Tuesday with first-degree murder in the death of Cha Vang, a Hmong hunter from Green Bay. The case has raised concerns about racial suspicion and hostilities lingering from the 2004 Chai Vang shooting...
A 28-year-old Peshtigo, Wis., man was charged Tuesday with first-degree murder in the death of Cha Vang, a Hmong hunter from Green Bay. The case has raised concerns about racial suspicion and hostilities lingering from the 2004 Chai Vang shootings near Rice Lake, Wis.
Marinette County, Wis., District Attorney Brent DeBord said at a news conference in Marinette Tuesday that James A. Nichols shot Cha Vang once and stabbed him six times, including five times in the neck, before hiding his body in the Peshtigo Harbor Wildlife Area.
DeBord gave no motive for the killing, which Vang's family said appeared to be racially motivated. Nichols has claimed self-defense, according to the complaint.
The two men apparently had a chance meeting in the woods while squirrel hunting on Jan. 5.
Nichols initially had claimed to be hunting in a different part of the county and accidentally shot himself in the hand, DeBord said. He subsequently gave investigators conflicting statements about his whereabouts and actions.
A shotgun has been recovered from a storage locker in Menominee, Mich., DeBord said. Authorities also have recovered a knife, he said.
The district attorney acknowledged that the case "has generated a great deal of concern from the public, especially the Hmong community," but he said no additional information would be released while the investigation continues.
Nichols also was charged with hiding a corpse and being a felon in possession of a firearm, both felonies.
He had gone to a local hospital with a gunshot wound to his hand on Jan. 6, the night Vang failed to rejoin friends after hunting small game in the wildlife area.
Nichols told his fiancee that Vang shot him in the hands and he killed Vang in self-defense, using a knife he carried to trim tails from the small game he shot.
But authorities, who had identified Nichols as a "person of interest" after interviewing him at the hospital, charged him Tuesday with intentionally killing Vang and trying to hide his body with leaves and branches.
In the complaint, prosecutors said Nichols claimed Vang shot him without provocation after Nichols told Vang to leave because he was interfering with his hunt. Nichols said the two then fought, and he killed Vang.
"I know there are many people in the Hmong community and the community at large, that are wondering if this is a hate crime," Dick Campbell, spokesman for Vang's widow, said after the charges were announced. "I'm wondering that myself."
Nichols told authorities that Hmong people were mean and "kill everything and that they go for anything that moves," the complaint said. He also said that the "Hmong group are bad," the complaint said.
Two years ago, Chai Soua Vang, a Hmong deer hunter from St. Paul, shot six white hunters to death after being accused of trespassing in northwestern Wisconsin's Sawyer County. He said that the whites shouted racial epithets at him and opened fire first. He is serving multiple life sentences.
A traditional four-day Hmong funeral will be held for Cha Vang this weekend in St. Paul, where he has relatives.
He arrived in the United States with his wife, Pang Vue Vang, two years ago from a refugee camp in Thailand. They had five children, ages 3 to 11.
Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle called Pang Vue Vang on Friday to offer condolences and to "make sure the family has the justice for her husband," WBAY TV in Green Bay reported Tuesday, quoting Yia Thao, president of the United Hmong Community Center in Green Bay, who acted as translator for the telephone conversation.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.