Basalt police chief feels the heat |

Basalt police chief feels the heat

Scott CondonAspen, CO Colorado

BASALT Basalt Police Chief Keith Ikeda is feeling some heat from the public over the lack of an arrest in the Basalt 7-Eleven shooting last month, he acknowledged Monday.Ikeda said he has been bombarded with e-mails in recent weeks from writers from outside the Roaring Fork Valley who criticized the department’s investigation. Some people in the community “had the same concerns,” he said.Ikeda feels the criticism is unjust because the public doesn’t know everything the department is doing in the case. Like any investigation, some of the work must be kept under wraps to prevent tipping off suspects and making the job that much tougher.”We have done an outstanding job on this investigation,” Ikeda said.Many of the critical e-mails arrived after former 7-Eleven cashier Bruno Kirchenwitz was a guest on Denver talk radio host Peter Boyles’ show, according to Ikeda. Kirchenwitz was the apparent target of a gunman who pumped five bullets into the 7-Eleven’s front window on June 26.Kirchenwitz was working on a Tuesday evening when two Latino males entered the store and asked if he was the man who wears a “U.S. Border Patrol” baseball hat. Kirchenwitz said he was, although he wasn’t wearing it at the time. The men made threatening comments, Kirchenwitz claimed, and indicated they would wait for him outside the store. The incident occurred at about 6:30 p.m. The men waited outside briefly but left. Kirchenwitz’s shift ended at 10 p.m. and he left the store a short time later to catch a bus. A gunman later fired the five shots from an M-1 rifle into the area behind the cash registers. A different cashier and four store patrons were unhurt by the blasts.(Ikeda reported Sunday that shell casings found on the scene were 30 millimeter. He corrected that Monday to say the casings were from a .30-caliber shell.)Kirchenwitz was placed on paid leave by 7-Eleven for one week after the accident, then fired. He said he was told the firing wasn’t tied to the shooting incident, but he doesn’t believe it. The corporation won’t comment on the firing.The case has grabbed regional attention and even national interest among individuals and groups opposed to illegal immigration. Ikeda said he received a new wave of e-mails after Kirchenwitz was a guest on Boyles’ radio show Friday.The police chief took a somewhat unusual step of releasing information about the investigation on Sunday. He named Ricardo Ramirez, 22, as the suspected triggerman. An arrest warrant was obtained by the Basalt Police Department on Ramirez for criminal attempt at first-degree assault and felony menacing. Ikeda said he released the information to keep the public informed about the department’s progress and because releasing Ramirez’s identity at this point could help rather than hurt the investigation.Only July 11, police searched the El Jebel home where Ramirez was living and found an M-1, Ikeda said. Ramirez was living in his father’s house; Ramirez hasn’t been found and could be out of the area, according to Ikeda.The police chief said officers have questioned all known associates of Ramirez to try to locate him, but there has been little cooperation. They also have placed residences under surveillance.”We are really trying to get this guy,” Ikeda said.Basalt police also alerted the Border Patrol in case Ramirez is caught trying to enter Mexico. Police believe Ramirez was in the U.S. illegally, based on information they have now, Ikeda said.Police also questioned a Basalt man they labeled a “person of interest” earlier in the investigation, but didn’t make an arrest. Ikeda said his department is still investigating if that person can be tied to the shooting.Kirchenwitz is among critics who believe the police should have held that first person on charges. If nothing else, he should have been held for making verbal threats when he entered the store, Kirchenwitz said.Ikeda said charging the man with menacing wouldn’t have been successful because Kirchenwitz said he wasn’t intimidated. In addition, Ikeda claimed Kirchenwitz told him the night of the shooting that he challenged the Latino men when they threatened him and that he told them when he got off work.Kirchenwitz denied he provoked the men. Boyles had Kirchenwitz take a lie detector test on Thursday and the results were unveiled on the air Friday.”Aced it,” Kirchenwitz said.Kirchenwitz said he believes comments by Ikeda about his role in provoking the issue led to his firing by 7-Eleven. Ikeda said he never talked to anyone from the corporation’s headquarters.Kirchenwitz said he plans to talk to an attorney to see if he has a case against 7-Eleven, the town of Basalt and the police chief.”I will be seeking regress,” he said.Scott Condon’s e-mail address is