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Climate activist was “upbeat, friendly and positive”; last moments were act of protest, friend says


A Boulder photographer and climate activist who died after self-immolating on the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court on Friday evening was described as “upbeat, friendly and positive” by a friend.

Marco DeGaetano first met Wynn Alan Bruce, who set himself on fire in an apparent act of protest against climate change, in the early 1990’s in Denver.

Wynn Alan Bruce (Wynn Alan Bruce via Facebook)

Though DeGaetano lost touch with Bruce over the years, they met again in 2006 at Natural Grocers in Boulder, after both men had moved to the Boulder area. After that, they bumped into each other regularly.

“He was always on a bicycle. I don’t think he owned a car; or if he did, he never used it,” said DeGaetano.

DeGaetano said he was shocked to hear about the manner in which Bruce died.

“It took me by surprise to hear this because never in any of those interactions did he say that he was worried about climate change. It was just friendly. That was the thing about him — he was always so upbeat and friendly and positive. But clearly, to do what he did … he must have been tussling with this issue for quite some time. It saddens me a great deal because he was a really nice kid.”

Bruce’s fatal act took place on the Supreme Court steps on April 22 — on Earth Day. Two days later, Bruce’s friends took to social media to say what he did was a deliberate action in protest against the climate crisis.

K. Kritee is a senior scientist at the Environmental Defense Fund, according to her Twitter account.

“This guy was my friend. He meditated with our sangha. This act is not suicide. This is a deeply fearless act of compassion to bring attention to climate crisis,” Kritee, who is also a Buddhist priest in Boulder, wrote Sunday.

Kritee, who said Sunday that she was grieving and declined to comment to the Camera, wrote that Bruce had been planning the demonstration for at least a year.

Bruce added a comment under a Facebook post on his profile page in 2020, citing “4/1/1, 4/22/2022” with the two sets of numbers separated by a fire emoticon.

Other friends of Bruce were not immediately available to comment Sunday.

According to DeGaetano, Bruce had lived in Boulder since at least 2006. Bruce was active in his community, and was the founder of Bright and True photography. He was also involved at the Boulder Shambhala Center, according to his Facebook page.

Brianna Burch, public affairs specialist for Metropolitan Police Department in Washington, D.C., Bruce’s motive for self-immolation is under investigation by Supreme Court police.

Mental health resources

  • Colorado Crisis Services: 1-844-493-8255 or text “TALK” to 3825
  • Crisis Text Line: Text 741741 from anywhere in the nation to reach a counselor
  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 800-273-8255
  • BoulderStrong Resource Center: 2935 Baseline Road or 303-545-0844