Hmong Community Reacts to Vang Murder Case

By: Brock Bergey Email
By: Brock Bergey Email

Investigators are stopping short of calling Cha Vang's death a hate crime at this time, but it's a theory that's getting plenty of attention.

"Is there discontent in Northeast Wisconsin and the Hmong community? Yes, there is," says Dick Campbell.

He's volunteered in the Hmong community in Northeaster Wisconsin for years. Campbell didn't personally know Cha Vang, but he's speaking on behalf of his family.

"I know there are many people in the Hmong community and the community in general who are wondering if this is a hate crime. I'm wondering that myself," says Campbell.

Autopsy results show Vang was shot once and stabbed six times--mainly in the neck.

Investigators says 28-year-old James Nichols of Peshtigo quickly became the prime suspect.

"A shotgun belonging to Mr. Nichols was later recovered in a storage locker in Menomonee, Michigan where it had been hidden by Mr. Nichols. Officers also recovered a knife from Mr. Nichols girlfriend's car," says Marinette County District Attorney Brent DeBord.

The criminal complaint says Nichols told an investigator, "the Hmong group are bad" and "the Hmong are mean."

However, court records also show Nichols told a different investigator Vang shot at him first, and he reacted in self-defense.

Sun Prairie Resident Joua Vang is President of the local Hmong Political Council. He's worried race will effect the outcome of the case.

Vang says racial tension is nothing new. He cites the 2004 shootings in Sawyer County. A Hmong hunter, Chai Vang, not to be confused with the murder victim, was convicted of shooting and killing six white hunters.

Joua Vang says several Hmong hunters are now staying out of the woods because they're scared.

"They don't know who is there. I believe a lot of my friends are not hunting anymore and even myself, in recent years I have not been hunting much," says Joua Vang.

The two Vang cases differ in nature, but Hmong leaders say they both call attention to discrimination.

Spokesperson Dick Campbell says up to this point Cha Vang's family is pleased with the justice system.

"I personally have a great deal of faith in the way the investigation has been conducted to this point," says Campbell.

Nichols is in the Marinette County Jail on 500-thousand dollars bond. His next court date is February 14th.

He faces three criminal charges including first-degree intentional murder.

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