September 27, 2023

Charges Filed In Hmong Hunting Death

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On January 6, 2007, officials located the body of Cha Vang, a member of the Hmong community in Wisconsin. His hunting companions had report Vang missing when he failed to show up at a predetermined 4 p.m. rendezvous on January 5, the day of the hunt. The reports said Vang had been shot and killed.

Later the night of January 6th, police responded to a report of a man entering the Bay Area Medical Center for treatment of a gun shot wound. Police then apprehended and held James D. Nichols of Peshtigo on parole violation. Nichols has now been charged in the death of Cha Vang. Here is the Wisconsin Attorney General’s statement.

“The complaint alleges that Vang encountered Nichols while they were both hunting on January 5, 2007, in the Peshtigo Harbor Wildlife area. Vang’s hunting companions reported that Vang failed to meet them as agreed at 4 p.m., after which they reported him missing. Vang’s body was discovered by law enforcement authorities on the morning of January 6, 2007, lying in a small depression and partially covered with leaves and other debris. A log was lying across his body.

“Shortly before 7 p.m. on January 5, 2007, Nichols arrived at the Bay Area Medical Center in Marinette and reported that he had been shot by an unknown person while hunting in an area 35 miles away from the Peshtigo Harbor Wildlife area. Nichols had a .22 caliber bullet lodged in his right hand and an injury to his left hand. Nichols denied having possessed a firearm while hunting, stating that he had been using a pellet gun which he had brought with him to the hospital.

“The Marinette County Sheriff’s Department was notified and responded to the hospital. Prior to that time, Marinette County law enforcement dispatch had not received any calls from Nichols reporting a shooting or any request for assistance. Nichols provided this same version to a responding sheriff’s deputy and also stated that after being shot he drove home and called his girlfriend, who then drove him to the hospital.

“After the investigating deputy expressed doubt about his statements, Nichols stated he wanted to talk hypothetically and asked about self-defense. Nichols changed his story and acknowledged he was hunting in the Peshtigo Harbor Wildlife Area. Nichols claimed that while he was hunting squirrels he looked up to see Vang and told him to leave the area because he was interfering with Nichols’s hunting, and that Vang said something he couldn’t understand and then shot him in the hand with a .22 caliber rifle. Nichols stated that he laughed after being shot and then ran when he was shot again in his other hand. Nichols stated that he then charged Vang and they fought and Nichols killed him.

“Nichols was later interviewed by another officer and stated that he was hunting with a shotgun. After killing a squirrel, Nichols stated he saw Vang looking at him from 50 feet away and he told Vang to leave. Nichols stated that Vang responded by stating, “I’m going to kill you” and shot him in the right hand. Nichols stated that he ran another 40 feet and fired a “wild” shot back at Vang but didn’t know if he hit him. Vang then allegedly fired a second shot at him and hit him in the left hand. Nichols stated that he then observed Vang doing something with his weapon and he then ran at Vang from 90 feet away, wrestled the gun away and stabbed Vang twice in the neck. Nichols stated that he then covered up Vang’s body and put Vang’s gun under a tree.

“Vang’s hunting companions reported that Vang did not speak English.

“Nichols’s girlfriend initially advised investigators that Nichols had told her he had been shot while hunting and did not know who shot him. She later advised investigators that Nichols claimed he was shot by a person with whom he got into a fight, and that Nichols stabbed and killed that person. Investigators were also informed that after the incident occurred, Nichols and his girlfriend drove to Menominee, Michigan, where Nichols hid a shotgun and ammunition in a storage locker and then took a pellet gun from the locker and placed it in the girlfriend’s car. Prior to arriving at the hospital, Nichols’s girlfriend removed a knife from Nichols’s clothing and put it in the console of her car.

“Law enforcement officers conducted a search of the storage locker and discovered a shotgun hidden behind a piece of furniture, and ammunition. A knife was recovered from the girlfriend’s car.

“An autopsy of Vang revealed that Vang had been shot once with a shotgun, wounding him in his right arm, neck, head and torso. The autopsy also indicated that Vang had been stabbed six times; five to the front of the neck and once to his left cheek. Vang also had a laceration behind his right ear and had a three to four inch long wooden stick protruding from his mouth. The autopsy determined that the cause of death was multiple stab wounds, which severed the jugular vein, and the shotgun wounds. Investigators believe that Vang was shot from a closer distance than claimed by Nichols and that Vang was turning away when shot.

“Wisconsin State Supreme Court Rule 20:3.6 governs the ethical obligations prosecutors have when dealing with pre-trial and trial publicity. Because of this rule, prosecutors cannot discuss details of a case prior to charging. These rules also require that prosecutors ensure that law enforcement agencies also comply with these restrictions. Even after charging, prosecutors and law enforcement cannot discuss matters not described in the public record. Thus, there will be no additional comment on the investigation or charges at this time.”

Tom Remington