BIRCHWOOD, Wis. (AP) — A deer hunter shot and killed five people and wounded three others after he was spotted on private land and was asked to leave, authorities said.
A 36-year-old man was arrested Sunday afternoon when he came out of the woods after the shootings during the hunt’s opening weekend, sheriff’s officials said. Two of the wounded were in critical condition yesterday.
Deputy Jake Hodgkinson identified the suspect as Chai Vang but would give no details. Vang is from St. Paul, Minn., said Paul Schnell, a spokesman for the St. Paul police department.
The victims were part of a larger group hunting near a rural cabin on private land in Sawyer County in northwestern Wisconsin.
One hunter spotted someone in their tree stand, a raised platform in a tree used by hunters, and he and several others approached the man and asked him to leave, Sawyer County Sheriff James Meier said yesterday.
The man got down from the stand and was walking away, then “for some apparent reason he turned and opened fire on them,” Meier said.
One hunter radioed to others in the party for help, and more people were shot as they arrived on all-terrain vehicles to rescue the first group, authorities said. Someone in the group wrote the suspect’s hunting license number, which hunters wear on their clothing, by tracing it on a dirty vehicle, Meier said.
“It’s absolutely nuts. Why? Over sitting in a tree stand?” Chief Deputy Tim Zeigle said earlier.
Zeigle said the suspect was “chasing after them and killing them,” with an SKS 7.62 mm semiautomatic rifle. Wisconsin’s statewide deer gun hunting season started Saturday and lasts for nine days.
About 20 shots were fired but it was unclear if any of the hunters had fired at the man or who might have shot first, Zeigle said. There was just one gun among the eight people killed or wounded, he said.
The dead included a woman and a father and his 20-year-old son, Zeigle said. Some of the victims were shot more than once. All five were from the Rice Lake area, about 15 miles southwest of Birchwood in northwestern Wisconsin, he said.
Authorities found two bodies near each other and the others were scattered over 100 yards.
The suspect, who did not have a compass, got lost in the woods and two other hunters who didn’t know about the shootings helped him find his way out, Zeigle said.
The man was arrested when he emerged from the woods and a Department of Natural Resources officer recognized the deer license on his back from a description given by one of the shooting victims, Zeigle said. The man was out of ammunition, he said.
One of the injured hunters was in critical condition yesterday at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Marshfield. Another was in critical condition and a third in stable condition at Lakeview Medical Center in Rice Lake.
Hunter Bill Wagner, 72, of Oshkosh was about two miles away near Deer Lake with a party of about 20 other hunters when they heard sirens, planes and helicopters and discovered roads in the area had been barricaded.
“When you’re hunting, you don’t expect somebody to try to shoot you and murder you,” Wagner said. “You have no idea who is coming up to you.”