Brent Gardner-Smith, Aspen Daily News, August 3, 2007
In the past, if Bruno Kirchenwitz wanted to see his name in print or vent about U.S. immigration policy, he would write letters to local newspapers about “illegal hordes” and stemming “the tide that threatens our sovereignty.”
Today, the former 7-Eleven clerk who was fired from his job after a shooting at the Basalt store has become a minor celebrity in local and regional media and a full-fledged poster child on conservative Internet Web sites dedicated to immigration reform.
He’s been prominently featured on the KHOW morning show in Denver with host Peter Boyles, who has aired a parody song produced by Don Wrege to the tune of “Stairway to Heaven,” which Boyles called “The Legend and Story of Bruno Kirchenwitz” on the air and producer Wrege entitled “Stairway to Unemployment” or “Bruno’s Theme.”
He’s scheduled to be on a radio show in Atlanta on Monday night and he’s been hoping to get on the air with Rush Limbaugh. And his name and story is all over Web sites like Immigration Watchdog, Americans for Legal Immigration, Free Republic, New Nation News and American Renaissance News.
As these Web sites follow the progress of the 7-Eleven shooting investigation, some have run headlines such as “Spic Shooter of Bruno ‘Jesus is my Gardener’ Identified” and “Latino Thug Identified in 7-Eleven Shooting.”
Kirchenwitz is taking advantage of his newfound fame, which was sparked by his habit of wearing a U.S. Border Patrol hat and a T-shirt with a stereotypical cartoon of a Mexican and the words “Jesus is my Gardener” on it.
Kirchenwitz, 54, was involved in an incident that started about 9:40 p.m. on June 26, when two Hispanic men came into the 7-Eleven and are said to have threatened Kirchenwitz because of his U.S. Border Patrol hat, even though he wasn’t wearing it at the time.
There are now conflicting reports about what happened next, and the store’s security video apparently doesn’t have a clear audio track, which might clear things up. Police say an “altercation” ensued and at a minimum that Kirchenwitz told the men what time he got off work.
Kirchenwitz now says that even though the men told him three times they were going to harm him when they got him alone, he simply told them in a lighthearted way, “If you like my hat, you’ll love my T-shirt.”
Then, just after 11 p.m., five .30-caliber rifle shots came slamming through the store’s front window and through the area where the store clerks normally work. There were several customers in the store at the time, including a young child. No one was injured, but police say someone could have easily been killed.
Police now believe that one of the men who had threatened Kirchenwitz earlier and fired the shots was Ricardo Ramirez, an illegal immigrant who lived in El Jebel with his father, according to Ikeda and Immigrations and Customs Enforcement. Police later found an M-1 rifle at the Ramirez household that was consistent with the bullet casings found in the store, and have issued an arrest warrant for him.
On July 9, Kirchenwitz was fired for a “confrontation with customers,” according to 7-Eleven spokeswoman Margaret Chabris, who said that, “He violated policy that evening and that was cause for termination.”
Denver talk-show host Peter Boyles has spent lots of air-time on the Kirchenwitz story and some of his listeners have called for a boycott of 7-Eleven, which is owned by what used to be called the Southland Corporation.
And while Kirchenwitz was on the air with Boyles last week, Colorado Congressman and presidential candidate Tom Tancredo called in for a pre-arranged appearance and told Kirchenwitz, “I think, my friend, you have a terrific lawsuit here and I hope you proceed with it.”
[Editor’s Note: AR News first posted the Bruno Kirchenwitz story here.]