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Hesebeck says the group never threatened Vang. Even so, one of the men wrote the number of the hunting license displayed on the back of Vang's vest into dirt coating an all-terrain vehicle (ATV). According to Hesebeck, Vang walked about 40 yds. away from the group and then turned around and started shooting. At that point, says Hesebeck, Willers fired back but missed Vang. Both men agree that chaos ensued. Spraying bullets at the party, Vang shot Willers, 47, in the neck, wounding but not killing him, and then shot and killed Mark Roidt, 28, and Hesebeck's brother-in-law Dennis Drew, 55. Hesebeck hid behind the ATV, but Vang went after him and shot him in the shoulder. Robert Crotteau, 42, and his son Joey, 20, ran from the scene but were chased by Vang, who shot them both, hitting Joey in the back. While Vang was pursuing the Crotteaus, the injured Hesebeck radioed the cabin for more help. As two new people arrived, Vang reloaded and shot them, killing Willers' daughter Jessica, 27, and Allan Laski, 43. Police found Vang a few hours later in a cabin and identified him by the license number that had been written on the ATV.
Even if someone took a shot at Vang, his reaction was wildly out of proportion, and Hmong in Minnesota and Wisconsin are concerned that the racial animosity stirred up will undo years of hard work. At a press conference in St. Paul last week, community leaders tried to distance themselves from Vang and announced that they were starting a fund for the victims' families. Fearing a backlash, Joe Bee Xiong, director of the Eau Claire Area Hmong Mutual Assistance Association, has suggested that Hmong hunters stay home for the rest of the season.
It is possible, however, that tensions had already been on the rise. In June 15,000 Hmong, recently cleared by the State Department to enter the U.S. from a refugee camp in Thailand, began arriving in the U.S. Of those, 5,000 are expected to move to Minnesota and 3,500 to Wisconsin, where they will be eligible for welfare at a time when the job market and state budgets are tight. For the families of the victims, the economy is the least of their woes. The entire close-knit community is reeling from the loss, and hundreds are turning out for the funerals of their neighbors and fellow hunters. Many of the mourners are wearing blaze orange ribbons. --With reporting by Phil Bourjaily/Iowa City and Marc Hequet/Rice Lake