DISCLAIMER: I agree that Vang is a murderer and I hope he gets prosecuted, but this whole story hits really close to home for me and has brought back a day I will never forget. A day where a small misunderstanding got way out of control.
When I was in college, three friends and I decided to take a hike in the state game lands one Saturday. We lived close enough to walk (I lived off campus that year, out in the woods in an old converted barn). It wasn't hunting season so no danger there. Our danger occurred when we crossed an unmarked property line for a family that lived way out in the woods. We had hiked for awhile and crossed a fire road, then headed up this wooded hill, maybe about 300 yards, and it opened to a field going even further up the side of this mountain. The fire road was the end of the game lands, although no signs were posted. We had gone up the hill onto private property. So at the edge of the clearing we decide to take a break and wind up making a very little fire. No reason really, except for something to occupy our time. And when I say small, I mean a fire about 6-8 inches in diameter.
So we're hanging out joking enjoying the outdoors when we hear this noise, kinda like a vehicle, but we were really out there and up this hill, so it seemed out of place. Well down the side of this mountain barreling towards us about 500 yards away is this old pickup. The passenger is hanging out the window and has a rifle pointing our way. We all get up, quickly put out the fire (in hindsight this seemed SO stupid) and started running down the hill through the woods. As we run, we hear four shots go off. No one turns around, and one guy at this point is literally rolling down the hill as he lost his footing. So we make it to the fire road and are now fast walking thinking how crazy it was for those guys to be after us. What we don't realize is the clearing meets the fire road about 200 yards further down than we had hiked. So now we see the truck take the turn from the field onto the road with the guy still hanging out the passenger window and pointing the rifle in our direction. We scramble into the thicket on the other side of the road. At this point I am alone as this is the thick thorn cover you see all over the Northeast. I literally tear through these thorns for what seemed like 100 yards and finally find a small creek within them. I immediately jump into the creek and find a cutout into the dirt where the creek took a turn and where I can lay down and hide and not be seen by anyone. I have also found a large stick at this point and am ready to use it to club anyone who may still be after me. I then proceed to rub mud all over my face and arms in what I can only explain as a feeble attempt to camouflage myself like Rambo in first blood. Remember at this point I do not know I was trespassing and think that someone has decided it is open season on me and my friends.
So there I sit for three hours waiting for nightfall, as I think it will provide enough cover for me to get out of the general area, and to a creek that I knew I could follow back to my apartment. Just as dusk is starting I hear someone on a megaphone “this is the police, we have a K9 unit, come out or we will let the dog go”. I was never happier to hear from the cops. I can see the lights going from their cruisers and decide they are legit. I crawl out of the thicket, bleeding and covered in mud. I leave the stick behind. I also see one of my three friends coming from another portion of the thicket. We get to the cops, they hand cuff us and put us in a cruiser. They take statements from the truck guys and from us. Then they talk to the truck guys again, and re-enter the cruiser and explain that we need to be careful where we go out here; people are very protective of their land. NO SHIT. The cops also say that the guys say they only fired shots into the air, and although we did technically trespass it would be best if everyone just dropped this. They take us back to our apartment, but the other two friends, who also love in the barn, are no where to be found. The cops wait and hang out with us for about 15 minutes, then say to have the other two contact them when they return to ensure they are OK and to arrange for them to give statements. 4 hours later, the one friend and I are all showered and wounds tended to, and there is a knock at the door. It’s the other two, still covered in mud, and bleeding and as freaked out as when we all scrambled on that dirt road. They had taken a long arched route around and back to the creek I mentioned earlier then back to the barn. They calmed down quickly and we all recovered (although I did have to drop microbiology that semester due to my cuts) we all laugh about it now, but with that little inward frustration of remembering how intense that day had become.
I didn’t have a gun with me, and in hindsight, I’m glad I didn’t. I don’t think they actually shot at us. But if I did have a gun that day, the outcome would not have been the same, and I think the story would not draw laughter of any kind, when recalled by those that remained.