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Sixth hunter shot in deer stand dispute dies

Authorities name suspect, but no formal charges filed

Brent Good, a friend of one of the slain hunters, lights candles during a vigil for the victims Monday in Birchwood, Wisconsin.
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CNN's Keith Oppenheim reports on the shooting suspect.

Lawman reacts to slayings: "This is completely nuts."

(CNN) -- The weekend shootings of a group of deer hunters in northwestern Wisconsin claimed a sixth life Monday, hospital officials and the man's family said.

Five others died in the immediate aftermath of the shootings Sunday afternoon, which Sawyer County Sheriff James Meier said were sparked by a dispute over a tree stand on the first weekend of Wisconsin's deer hunting season.

Denny Drew, 55, was one of three hunters who initially survived the shootings in rural Sawyer County. A family statement said he died Monday evening after being transferred from Lakeview Medical Center in nearby Rice Lake to a hospital in Marshfield, about 120 miles from the scene of the shooting.

"The family is requesting privacy as they deal with this very public tragedy," said the statement, which a hospital official read to CNN. "The family wishes to express sincere thanks to the community for their heartfelt support during this very difficult time."

A suspect is in custody -- 36-year-old Chai Vang of St. Paul, Minnesota -- but no formal charges have been filed against him, Meier told reporters.

"This is an incredible tragedy," Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle said. "One in which a great family tradition like a deer hunt has turned into such a great loss for the families involved. The whole state of Wisconsin feels the deepest sympathy and pain."

The shootings occurred after hunters returning to a rural cabin saw a man in a deer stand, a platform built in a tree to give hunters a better view, on private property. The hunter radioed someone to ask about the man's presence there.

Meier said the man had apparently been hunting and had gotten lost. He wandered onto 400 acres of private land.

One of the hunters "approached the person and asked him to leave, at which time the landowners and the occupants of the cabin came on the scene. The suspect got down from the deer stand, walked approximately 40 yards, fiddled with his rifle in some way ... turned and opened fire on the group," Meier said. He said it appeared some of the targeted hunters tried to fire back.

When other hunters appeared on the scene, they also were hit by gunfire, Meier said. Some of the people suffered multiple gunshot wounds. The shooter used an SKS 7.62 mm semiautomatic rifle, the sheriff said.

Two bodies were found near each other, and the others were found over an area of about 100 yards, he said.

Drew had been shot in the abdomen and suffered extensive injuries to his large and small intestines and pancreas, said Dr. Lynn Koob, a surgeon at Lakeview Medical Center. He was in surgery for three hours Sunday, and doctors had said earlier Monday that his condition was improving.

The shootings also claimed the lives of Robert Crotteau, 42, and his son, Joey Crotteau, 20; Al Laski, 43; Mark Roidt, 28; and Jessica Willers, 27, the daughter of Terry Willers, who was wounded.

Two wounded survivors remained hospitalized Monday night.

Terry Willers was transferred to a clinic in nearby Marshfield with a neck and shoulder wound, and Lauren Hesebeck remained at Lakeview with a gunshot wound to the shoulder and arm.

After the incident, the shooter got lost again and was led from the woods by two hunters who were unaware of the incident. A Department of Natural Resources officer recognized the deer license on his back from a description given by one of the shooting victims, said Chief Deputy Tim Zeigle of the Sawyer County Sheriff's Department.

"We were very thankful to take him into custody. No one else got hurt," Zeigle said. "When he was taken into custody, his gun was empty."

The killings stunned Exeland, a village of 219 people about 135 miles northeast of Minneapolis.

Barron County Sheriff Tom Richie said the victims "Are all well-known, well-respected members of the community."

Vang came to the United States from Laos in 1980 and became a U.S. citizen. The married father of six is a truck driver in St. Paul, CNN's Keith Oppenheim reported.

Vang's criminal record in the United States was clean except for a domestic incident three years ago in which he allegedly waved a handgun at his wife, who later declined to press charges against him.

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