Luckily, bullets miss store patrons in Basalt shooting |

Luckily, bullets miss store patrons in Basalt shooting

Jim PaussaBullet holes are evident in the front window of the Basalt 7-Eleven store after shots were fired into the establishment Tuesday night.

BASALT ” It was extremely fortunate that shots fired into the Basalt 7-Eleven store Tuesday night didn’t hit anyone, according to Basalt Police Chief Keith Ikeda.

Five bullets penetrated a large plate-glass window at the front of the store at 11:10 p.m., scattering a handful of patrons and rattling the sole clerk on duty, according to police.

If the clerk had been behind the register at the time or a patron had been browsing at a magazine rack directly in front of the window “they would have been killed or seriously injured,” Ikeda said.

The patrons, which included a family with a child, fled the scene and didn’t return. Police want them to come forward for an interview to see if they have any information that can help the investigation.

A sales clerk who was on duty earlier in the evening claimed the attack was in response to a baseball cap he frequently wears while on duty that reads, “U.S. Border Patrol.” That clerk, Bruno Kirchenwitz, said two Latino men entered the store at about 9:30 p.m. and asked him if he wears the hat. He told them he did possess the hat, although he wasn’t wearing it at the time.

The men expressed their displeasure but Kirchenwitz didn’t take them seriously until they told him they would wait outside until he got off duty.

“I said, ‘Bring it on. This is … bull—,'” Kirchenwitz said.

Kirchenwitz said he wears the hat because he is against illegal immigration, not against Latinos. He said he himself immigrated to the United States from Germany, so he can empathize with the desire to come to this country. He just believes people should enter legally.

Ikeda confirmed his office is investigating whether or not the shooting was provoked by the hat.

“Even if it did provoke a response, that response was a violent criminal act that can never be condoned,” Ikeda said.

Kirchenwitz said the two men, who he had never seen before, didn’t wait outside the store long after the verbal altercation. He left the store at around 10 p.m. without incident. He was roused from the tent where he sleeps by an Eagle County deputy after the shooting occurred.

Kirchenwitz said he is thankful nobody was hurt. “They could have killed innocent people,” he said. “The cops said I was lucky. I am lucky.”

Investigators found five casings from rounds fired from a rifle. The caliber of rifle is known but wasn’t immediately available. It is evident from the bullet holes poked through the 7-Eleven window that it wasn’t a .22 caliber rifle. The bullets had ricocheted off a lottery ticket machine and left dents.

The shots were fired from Two Rivers Road, in front of 7-Eleven, Ikeda said. The suspects fled the scene after shooting and haven’t been apprehended. Police have leads that indicate at least one of the suspects is a local resident.

The suspects were described by police as Latino males between ages 18 and 28. One is 5-feet-7-inches to 5-feet-9-inches tall and weighing between 200 and 225 pounds. He has a short crew cut and a clean-shaven face.

The other suspect is 5-feet-6-inches to 5-feet-8-inches in height and weighs 180 to 195 pounds. He has a shaven head, clean-shaven face and multiple tattoos on his upper left arm.

Ikeda said police were working from images captured by the store’s video surveillance camera.

Anyone with information about the suspects or the incident are urged to call the Basalt Police Department at 927-4316.

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