PLAYING TO NICK COLEMAN? The investigation into the shooting of five hunters in Northern Wisconsin is turning into an interesting case study in he said, they said.

Authorities have said a hunter identified as Chai Soua Vang, of St. Paul, Minn., opened fire on the group after one of them confronted him for trespassing on their private property shortly after noon. Vang was arrested hours after the onslaught.

The suspect, 36, has asserted that he acted in self-defense after being taunted with racial epithets and was fired upon by someone in the hunting group. Hunters in Roidt's party have told authorities that Vang fired first, and he is expected to be charged Monday with homicide and attempted homicide.

The suspect is turning out to be a rather complex character. On the one hand, his neighbors, past and present, praise his efforts as a spiritual leader.

In Stockton, Calif., where Vang lived in the 1990s, neighbors remembered him as a nice man who presided over a busy household that was often filled with visiting family members. He drove a semitrailer truck, and sometimes a bulk cement truck, so he was often away from home, but Vang told a neighbor that he wanted to move to Minnesota, seeking a better life for his wife and children.

Pheng Lo, executive director of the Lao Family Community of Stockton, remembered Vang as an outgoing guy with a friendly face. Which makes it so difficult for Lo to understand how the man he knew could be accused of shooting eight hunters and killing six of them.

"I said something must really, really have happened to him. He was so mad or angry, or maybe he had mental problems lately," Lo said.

On the other hand, he has had previous run-ins with the authorities in Wisconsin, where there is an outstanding warrant from 2002, and authorities in another northern county are comparing this shooting with an unsolved shooting of a hunter in 2001.

What's the Nick Coleman connection? Nick Coleman is a Garrison Keillor liberal from Minneapolis, who writes a column for the Star Tribune. Mitch at Shot in the Dark characterizes him as a bigot of low expectations. Did such columns -- nay, the entire latte liberal Minneapolis establishment -- inspire Mr Vang to play the race card upon his arrest?

SECOND SECTION. Owen at Boots and Sabers offers his hypothesis.

Here’s what I think happened… Vang is a former child soldier. When he was in the woods and was confronted by some other guys with guns, he snapped into a psychotic flashback episode of some sort. He took the scope off of his SKS, thus returning it to the war rifle of his youth instead of the hunting rifle of his present.

I could be totally wrong, but that’s my best guess. When something as senseless and horrific as this happens, we all grasp for an explanation. That’s the best one that I can come up with.

He has since posted more on the obligatory attempts to ban automatic weapons, on the suspect's statement, and on the suspect's defense.

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