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Testimony: Vang tried to walk away from confrontation
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Lauren Hesebeck holds up a rifle as he testifies in the murder trial of Chai Soua Vang Tuesday in Hayward, Wis. Vang is charged with six counts of first-degree murder and two counts of attempted murder in the Nov. 21, 2004 shootings in Sawyer. (Pool photo/Jeffrey Phelps)
More details have been revealed of an angry confrontation that escalated to a shooting in the Wisconsin woods during last fall's deer hunt. Thirty-six year old Chai Vang is on trial, charged with killing six members of a deer hunting party, and wounding two others. One of the hunters wounded has said Vang was threatened. And he says racial slurs were used in the confrontation. Vang is Hmong.

Hayward, Wis. — Lauren Hesebeck was shot in the upper arm that day. He was one of six hunters to confront Chai Vang after Vang was caught trespassing on private property. Hesebeck was one of only two shot to survive.

He described an angry Bob Crotteau, the property owner who was questioning Vang about trespassing. It was a conversation apparently laced with profanities.

Hesebeck says he told an investigator days after the shooting that Bob Crotteau had made a common threat to administer to Vang a beating. The investigator may have understood Crotteau made multiple threats, but Hesebeck says he only heard it once.

"No, I believe it was one statement. When they wrote it down, it started out that I'd said, 'Yeah, I'd kick your ass.' I said, 'No, he said, you keep it up I'm going to kick your ass. Better yet, just get out of here," Hesebeck testified.

Hesebeck also told investigators that Bob Crotteau had complained of Hmong hunters trespassing on his property before. And Hesebeck said Crotteau had called Vang derogoratory terms -- including a profanity tagged with Hmong.

Hesebeck said Bob Crotteau's son Joey may have stepped somewhat in the way when Vang was trying to leave, but that there was plenty of room in a clearing there for Vang to go around.

"It's probably 25 to 30 feet wide, maybe even more," he said.

Hesebeck said no one fired a shot at Chai Vang, before Vang opened fire on the group of hunters. Several minutes later, Hesebeck said he grabbed the only rifle among the six hunters, and shot once in Chai Vang's direction. Evidence shows the rifle was fired only once, and Hesebeck says he knows he was the one who fired it.

"There was no doubt in my mind that I shot. No question at all. It was very hard for me to point a gun at another human being and pull the trigger," said Hesebeck.

Carter Crotteau, the 19-year-old son of victim Bob Crotteau, gave some emotional testimony. His brother, Joey, also died in the woods that day.

Carter came to help after the shooting broke out. He was the first person to find Jessica Willers and Allan Laski dead by their ATV. And he was first to find the bodies of his father and brother.

"I just, I rolled him over, and I remember yelling at him, trying to like wake him up. I didn't know what was wrong. And then when he wasn't answering I checked for a pulse," said Crotteau, who told the court he didn't find a pulse.

Then he described finding the body of his brother, Joey.

"As I got closer, I could pick out that it was my brother," Crotteau told prosecutor Peg Lautenschlager. When asked what he did next, Crotteau said "the same thing I did with my dad."

"I just went up and tried yelling at him. And, once there was no response I tried checking for a pulse," Crotteau said.

Carter Crotteau maintained his composure as he described finding the shooting victims. But he burst into tears as he stepped down from the stand.

Carter's uncle, Steve Crotteau, also testified. He'd been at the hunter's cabin when gunshots were fired. Steve Crotteau said he'd left the cabin to find a place his cell phone would work, so he could call for help. When he returned, he met Carter.

"And I said, 'Who's dead?' And he said, 'Dad and Joe, Al and Jess, and Mark.' And I said, 'How do you know? How do you know?' And he said, 'I checked their pulse.' And I just gave him a hug and told him I loved him," Steve Crotteau testified.

Testimony is expected Wednesday from experts, including the pathologists who performed autopsies on the victims. The defense is expected to get the case Thursday, and it could be in the jury's hands by Friday.

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