Basalt 7-Eleven shooting |

Basalt 7-Eleven shooting

Paul Conrad/Aspen Times Weekly

Basalt’s biggest unsolved mystery in 2007 was less of a “whodunit” and more of a case of “which way did he go?”

The police department hasn’t given up hope of arresting the person it suspects of being the trigger man when shots were fired at the 7-Eleven store on the night of June 26. A clerk and four customers were in the store when several shots from a suspected M1 rifle were sprayed into the store, shattering a front window. Police said it was fortunate nobody was killed or injured.

Basalt police obtained an arrest warrant in July for Ricardo Ramirez on charges of criminal attempt of first degree assault and felony menacing. They had to show a judge they had probable cause to arrest him for the crimes. By the time they built enough evidence, Ramirez had probably fled the country, according to Basalt Police Chief Keith Ikeda.

“We had some leads last month that Ricardo Ramirez had come back to the country,” Ikeda said.

The case swiftly grabbed the attention of illegal immigration critics and took on a circuslike aspect, owing to the involvement of Bruno Kirchenwitz, a former 7-Eleven clerk who was probably the target of the shots. He is an outspoken critic of illegal immigration and sometimes wore a baseball hat with a U.S. Border Patrol label, although not at work.

During Kirchenwitz’s shift June 26, police said, two Latino males argued with the clerk about his hat. Later, after Kirchenwitz left the store, shots were fired through the window.

Kirchenwitz was upset that the police department didn’t act more quickly to arrest Ramirez, and he publicly criticized Ikeda’s handling of the case. Kirchenwitz became a temporary star on Denver talk-show host Peter Boyles’ radio show in July; Ikeda was skewered.

7-Eleven fanned the flames when they fired Kirchenwitz on July 9.

Critics wanted the case wrapped up efficiently like a crime on the popular television show “CSI.” Ikeda said many observers don’t realize you have to build evidence to obtain an arrest warrant. Investigators watched 7-Eleven’s surveillance video, realized Ramirez used a credit card on an earlier visit to the store June 26, and tracked him through that transaction.

They learned that Ramirez or his father owned a car that matched one seen leaving the scene at the time of the shooting. The M1 rifle investigators believe was used in the shooting was found when they searched the El Jebel residence of Ramirez’s father. They were able to obtain an arrest warrant July 13 only after they accumulated that evidence, Ikeda said.

Basalt police are still actively seeking Ramirez. It could be a case of the suspect slipping up somewhere ” maybe through a mere traffic violation ” and police discover there is a warrant for his arrest. Ikeda said he believes that arrest will happen.

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