Cops get vote of confidence in Basalt |

Cops get vote of confidence in Basalt

Scott CondonAspen, CO Colorado

BASALT Basalt Police Chief Keith Ikeda and his department received a vote of confidence Tuesday night from two members of the Town Council.Councilman Gary Tennenbaum said he wanted to voice his support since the Basalt cops have been targets of criticism in recent letters to the editors of local newspapers for their handling of gunfire at 7-Eleven.”I think they’re doing the best job they can possibly do,” Tennenbaum said. He said he wanted to publicly express his support for Ikeda.Councilman Chris Seldin quickly endorsed the vote of confidence. He said it is a difficult investigation and that not all the evidence in a case like that can be disclosed. He asked people to be “patient” and the let investigation run its course.The comments were made during a time when council members can bring up topics of their choice. The other four council members at the meeting didn’t express an opinion on the topic.Ikeda usually attends the council meeting but he is out of town this week.Bruno Kirchenwitz, the possible target of five shots sprayed into the front plate-glass window of 7-Eleven on June 26, isn’t giving the police any vote of confidence. He said this week that he is frustrated that there have been no arrests and that he believes police allowed the alleged triggerman to slip through their fingers.Kirchenwitz was on duty as a cashier at 7-Eleven when two Latino men entered about 6:30 p.m. on a Tuesday. They asked if he was the man who wears a “U.S. Border Patrol” hat. He acknowledged he does wear the hat, although he wasn’t wearing it at the time.Kirchenwitz said the men expressed their displeasure with the hat and threatened him, but ultimately left without incident. He got off work at 10 p.m. and left a short time later to catch a bus, also without incident.Around 11:10 p.m., when a different cashier was working, five bullets from a M-1 rifle penetrated the window. The clerk and the four customers in the store escaped injury.The person or people who fired the shots fled in a car.Kirchenwitz became increasingly frustrated with the investigation in the days after the shooting because of the lack of an arrest. He claimed he gave police enough to work with; Ikeda said that’s not the case.Kirchenwitz told The Aspen Times the day after the shooting that police showed him photos of Latino males to see if he could identify the two men who approached him in the store. He said he identified one positively and he was “90 percent sure” of the second man. The picture was slightly blurred, so he couldn’t confirm whether the man had acne in the photo, as he did in person.Police tracked down the man Kirchenwitz positively identified, and questioned him the day after the shooting. The man acknowledged coming to the store earlier in the evening and talking to Kirchenwitz about his hat, but he denied knowledge of the shooting later that night. Ikeda said at the time that the man “was not very forthcoming” about the person he had been with earlier that night.About a week after the shooting, police established the identity of the second man because he used a credit card to make a purchase at 7-Eleven. Police obtained a search warrant and on July 11 searched the El Jebel home where the man had been staying. They found an M-1 rifle but not the suspect.On July 29, Ikeda identified the man as Ricardo Ramirez, 22. An arrest warrant was issued for criminal attempt at first-degree assault and felony menacing. Police believe he has fled the area, possibly to Mexico.Kirchenwitz said police waited too long to pick up Ramirez, especially since he told them he was 90 percent sure Ramirez was one of the two men who confronted him. He has criticized Ikeda’s leadership in interviews and letters to the editor.Ikeda said Kirchenwitz never identified Ramirez or provided police with information they could use to arrest Ramirez. He said Kirchenwitz told investigators the two men who confronted him had paid for their items with cash. Police reviewed videotape from the store’s surveillance cameras and learned Ramirez actually paid with a credit card.Basalt investigators worked with 7-Eleven’s corporate headquarters to track the sales information so they could get identification, but that took several days, Ikeda said.Ramirez remains at large. Kirchenwitz was fired by 7-Eleven for unspecified reasons.Scott Condon’s e-mail address is