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Who is Chai Vang?
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Chai Vang lives with his six children on St. Paul's East Side. (MPR Photo/Marisa Helms)
Chai Vang remains a bit of a mystery, to many in the Hmong community, and even to his neighbors. They say they've never met Vang, and rarely even spoke to him or saw him. Even though the killings of six hunters -- allegedly at the hands of Vang --took place over 100 miles away, some of the neighbors point to the killing as an example of how the neighborhood has gone downhill. Others wonder if the shootings could have been prevented if they had reached out more to Vang and his family.

St. Paul, Minn. — We know this much.

Chai Vang is a 36-year-old Hmong refugee who's been in the United States for over 20 years. He served briefly in the U.S. Army. He loves to hunt. He lives with his six children in a house on St. Paul's East Side.

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Image Parker Schilling

Before the shooting, Vang was anonymous to his neighbors. Now he's a household name, he's still just a guy sometimes seen coming in and out of the house.

"I'd say 'hi' and that, but they really stay in their own culture. They don't really mix with other people," according to Sharon Nelson, who lives next door to Chai Vang.

"He minds his own business. And they never... they really never talk to us. My son did because they're raising chickens and they got on the front yard one day and he had to go tell the neighbors, 'your chickens are running around,'" she said.

If Vang is known for anything on his block, It appears to be the chickens.

Neighbor Parke Schilling's house has a view of Vang's backyard.

"I'm surprised that the City of St. Paul let them have it. If I get one thing out of line in my yard, I'm written up for it. If I don't move my cars every day, I'd get written up for it. But these people come in and they raise chickens, and you name it," he said.

And that's about all Schilling knows about Vang.

"I didn't know him at all. I seen people come and go over there and that's about it. But then it doesn't surprise me with the way the neighborhood's gone downhill. Used to be you could walk up and down the streets and wouldn't get accosted or anything. It's a bad neighborhood now," Schilling said.

Schilling says there are many what he calls, "undesirables" living nearby. But, he says the Hmong residents have been a "boon to the neighborhood" because they moving in and fix up their homes.

The Dayton's Bluff neighborhood is one of the most diverse in St. Paul. There's a mix of Hmong, Latino, African American and white residents. It's a combination of homeowners and renters.

Vang's neighborhood is also a place where the different groups stick to themselves, says Charlie Golden Black, who lives across the street from Vang. She says Vang moved in this Spring. She says he's rarely outside.

"Everybody has their own little world. And we need to all kind of work together. And I'm very sorry about this because I feel like we've dropped the ball someplace in not maybe noticing something like this. How could you not notice someone that was going to kill six people and maybe more? I mean, how could you not detect that?"

St. Paul police say they've answered two domestic abuse calls at Vang's Dayton's Bluff home. None of the neighbors recalls ever seeing police officers at his house.

Vang's only other run-in with police occurred when he lived in Minneapolis. On Christmas Eve 2001, according to police reports, Vang had threatened to kill his wife. Police arrested him for having a loaded handgun in the bedroom. He was released.

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