A woman targeted by a gunman who killed family members before he shot her to death in her home and seriously injured her parents was a 2013 Chippewa Falls High School graduate and dance team member, said a friend who recalled her as happy, bold and welcoming.
"She had this laugh that was very intoxicating," said Melody Evans-Ermatinger, who attended high school with Laile Vang. "I remember her being so bold with everything. She was a go-getter."
Evans-Ermatinger said she and Vang, who was 24, were members of the high school color guard, performing with the school's marching band. Evans-Ermatinger was younger than Vang, and when she joined the color guard, it was Vang who made her feel welcome.
"She was very happy," she said. "She made me feel included."
The two also worked together at the Chippewa Falls McDonald's restaurant until Vang left for college. She attended the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire for several years, studying photography among other subjects. In a series of YouTube videos, she greets a Korean pen pal, offers lessons in the Hmong language and wishes them a happy holiday.
A GoFundMe fundraiser for the Chippewa Falls family has raised thousands of dollars in less than a day.
The fund's organizer, Leni Sujin, said Vang was "a beautiful soul" who "was kind to everyone."
"She took life one day at a time. She enjoyed traveling the world, eating delicious food, taking photos and listening to good music. Laile was the glue that held her family together. She was the big sister that everyone turned to for advice. She was the daughter that helped her parents with bills and chores. She was the friend that always offered a lending hand and listening ear," Sujin wrote.
Vang's parents, Teng Vang and Mai Chang Vang, each lost an arm in the shooting. According to the GoFundMe fundraiser, both parents help support their family through farming and selling produce at local farmers markets.
The couple were hospitalized but are expected to survive, authorities said.
Vang died Sunday night when alleged gunman Ritchie German Jr., 33, burst into her family's house in Lake Hallie, Wis., firing a shotgun. He gravely injured her parents, both of whom confronted German, before turning the gun on Laile Vang. German then fatally shot himself. Four other people in the house either hid or escaped through windows.
He was also responsible for the deaths of his mother, Bridget German, 66; brother Douglas German, 32; and his brother's son, Calvin Harris, 8, all at another house some 4 miles away, police say. Those shootings might have occurred as early as Saturday morning, authorities said.
It's not yet known what triggered the violence. Nor is it clear why German targeted the Vang family. Authorities said they learned from family members that he sent texts of a sexual nature to Laile Vang before the shootings, but she didn't know the man and replied with a text asking who he was.
The investigation continues, and authorities hope to learn more about German's whereabouts and social media activity from his personal cellphone. That phone, along with several others connected to the shooting victims, are among evidence under review at the state Division of Criminal Investigation.