Clerk fired for wear­ing a Border Pa­trol cap

The Washington Times Weekly - - Front Page - By Va­lerie Richard­son

DEN­VER — Not only did Bruno Kirchen­witz’s U.S. Border Pa­trol base­ball cap help get him fired, it al­most got him shot.

Mr. Kirchen­witz, 54, was dis­missed from his part-time job at 7Eleven in Basalt af­ter he was threat­ened by two His­panic men who are sus­pected of later pump­ing five bul­lets into the store.

Mr. Kirchen­witz, who left work less than an hour be­fore the shoot­ing, was ter­mi­nated by South­land Corp., which owns the 7-Eleven chain of con­ve­nience stores, for vi­o­lat­ing the com­pany’s “non-con­fronta­tion pol­icy.”

He con­tends he was fired for his views on il­le­gal im­mi­gra­tion and seeks a lawyer to sue South­land on his be­half.

“I want to put the hurt on their pock­et­book be­cause that’s all they care about, ap­par­ently,” Mr. Kirchen­witz said.

The June 26 episode trans­formed him into a kind of folk hero on talk ra­dio and within the se­cure-borders move­ment.

Mr. Kirchen­witz made a dozen ap­pear­ances on KHOW-AM’s “The Peter Boyles Show” in Den­ver. His back­ers call for a boy­cott of 7-Eleven. He even has his own song, “Bruno’s Theme,” sung to the tune of Led Zep­pelin’s “Stair­way to Heaven.”

Mr. Kirchen­witz wasn’t wear­ing his U.S. Border Pa­trol hat on the

night of the shoot­ing.

“I never wear that hat to work, but I ride the bus a lot, and peo­ple see me with it,” he said.

The men ev­i­dently rec­og­nized him. “Th­ese guys said, ‘You’re the guy who wears that hat, right?’l” Mr. Kirchen­witz said. “I said, ‘Yeah.’ I thought they were jok­ing at first, so I said, ‘If you like my hat, you’re go­ing to love my T-shirt.’ ”

The shirt de­picts a som­brerowear­ing His­panic and reads: “Je­sus is my gar­dener.” At that point, he said, the con­ver­sa­tion turned ugly as the men be­gan to threaten him, ask­ing him when he got off work and say­ing they would come back and beat him up.

When Mr. Kirchen­witz left work at 10:15 p.m., he tucked a knife into the sleeve of his jacket, just in case. Forty-five min­utes later, some­one fired five shots into the 7-Eleven win­dow with an M-1 ri­fle.

No one was hurt, though there were sev­eral cus­tomers present, in­clud­ing a fam­ily with a child. Po­lice is­sued an ar­rest war­rant for one of the men, Richard Ramirez, an il­le­gal alien who had been de­ported be­fore by the Im­mi­gra­tion and Cus­toms En­force­ment agency.

Basalt Po­lice Chief Keith Ikeda said the de­part­ment iden­ti­fied the sec­ond man, who is liv­ing in Colorado legally, though no war­rant is is­sued for his ar­rest.

Mr. Kirchen­witz said he was rat­tled by his close call with the shoot­ing, but even more so when he re­ceived a call from 7-Eleven’s na­tional head­quar­ters.

“They said that be­cause of an ‘egre­gious cus­tomer in­ter­ac­tion,’ we’ve de­cided to ter­mi­nate you,” he said. “My store man­ager didn’t even know. Now they’re say­ing I pro­voked re­tal­i­a­tion that night.”

Mar­garet Chabris, spokes­woman for 7-Eleven, said Mr. Kirchen­witz was fired for break­ing com­pany pol­icy the night of the shoot­ing, as well as for “other is­sues that we learned about as we were go­ing through the process.”

“He vi­o­lated 7-Eleven’s non­con­fronta­tion pol­icy. He was trained in not con­fronting cus­tomers, in treat­ing cus­tomers with re­spect,” Mrs. Chabris said. “It had noth­ing to do with the First Amend­ment or im­mi­gra­tion or any of those things.”

Mr. Kirchen­witz in­sists he did noth­ing that night to an­tag­o­nize the two men.

An im­mi­grant him­self — he moved here from Ger­many in 1954 — Mr. Kirchen­witz said the ex­pe­ri­ence made him a man with a mis­sion.

“This is go­ing to be my new hobby from now on,” he said. “I’m go­ing to see what I can do to send ev­ery sin­gle il­le­gal alien back home.”

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