Photograph of Marvin Heemeyer
|Born||Marvin John Heemeyer
October 28, 1951
|Died||June 4, 2004
Granby, Colorado, U.S.
|Cause of death||Self-inflicted gunshot|
|Known for||Bulldozer rampage (killdozer)|
Marvin John Heemeyer (October 28, 1951 – June 4, 2004) was a welder and an automobile muffler repair shop owner most known for his rampage with a modified bulldozer. Outraged over the outcome of a zoning dispute, he armored a Komatsu D355A bulldozer with layers of steel and concrete and used it on June 4, 2004, to demolish the town hall, the former mayor's house, and other buildings in Granby, Colorado. The rampage ended when the bulldozer got stuck in the basement of a building he had previously destroyed. Heemeyer then killed himself with a handgun.
Heemeyer had been feuding with Granby officials, particularly over fines for violating city ordinances and a zoning dispute regarding a concrete factory constructed opposite to his muffler shop that had caused his business to fail.
Heemeyer lived in Grand Lake, Colorado, about 16 miles (26 km) away from Granby. According to a neighbor, Heemeyer moved to town over 10 years prior to the incident. Heemeyer's friends stated that he had no relatives in the Granby-Grand Lake area.
John Bauldree, a friend of Heemeyer, said that Heemeyer was an enjoyable person. Ken Heemeyer said his brother "would bend over backwards for anyone". While many people described Heemeyer as a likable person, others told a different story. Christie Baker said that Heemeyer threatened her husband after he refused to pay for a faulty muffler repair. Baker said her husband later paid Heemeyer $124 via an intermediary.
In 1992, Heemeyer bought 2 acres (8,100 m2) of land from the Resolution Trust Corporation, the federal agency organized to handle the assets of failed savings and loan institutions. He bought the land for $42,000 to build a muffler shop and subsequently agreed to sell the land to a concrete company owned by the Docheff family to build a concrete batch plant. The agreed price was $250,000 but according to Susan Docheff, Heemeyer changed his mind and increased the price to $375,000 and later demanded a deal worth approximately $1 million. Some believe this negotiation happened before the rezoning proposal was heard by the town council.
In 2001, the zoning commission and the town's trustees approved the construction of a cement manufacturing plant. Heemeyer appealed the decisions unsuccessfully. For many years, Heemeyer had used the adjacent property as a way to get to his muffler shop. The plan for the cement plant blocked that access. In addition to the frustration engendered by this dispute over access, Heemeyer was fined $2,500 by the Granby government for various violations, including "junk cars on the property and not being hooked up to the sewer line".
As a last measure, Heemeyer petitioned the city with his neighbors and friends, but to no avail. He could not function without the sewer line and the cooperation of the town.
Heemeyer leased his business to a trash company and sold the property several months prior to the rampage.
Heemeyer had bought a bulldozer two years before the incident with the intention of using it to build an alternative route to his muffler shop, but city officials rejected his request to build the road.
Notes found by investigators after the rampage indicate that the primary motivation for Heemeyer's bulldozer rampage was his fight to stop a concrete plant from being built near his shop. The notes indicated Heemeyer held grudges over the zoning approval. "I was always willing to be reasonable until I had to be unreasonable", Heemeyer wrote. "Sometimes reasonable men must do unreasonable things."
Heemeyer took about a year and a half to prepare for his rampage. In notes found by investigators after the incident, Heemeyer wrote: "It's interesting how I never got caught. This was a part-time project over a 1½ year time period." Heemeyer was surprised that several men who had visited the shed late the previous year did not discover the modified bulldozer, "especially with the 2,000 lb. lift fully exposed". "Somehow their vision was clouded", he wrote.
The machine used in the incident was a Komatsu D355A bulldozer fitted with makeshift armor plating covering the cabin, engine and parts of the tracks. In places, the vehicle's armor was over one foot thick, consisting of concrete sandwiched between sheets of steel to make ad-hoc composite armor. This made the machine impervious to small arms fire and resistant to explosives; three external explosions and over 200 rounds of firearm ammunition fired at the bulldozer had no effect on it. National Guard units were placed on standby orders by Governor Bill Owens for possible anti-armor support.
For visibility, the bulldozer was fitted with several video cameras linked to two monitors mounted on the vehicle's dashboard. The cameras were protected on the outside by 3-inch shields of bullet-resistant plastic. Onboard fans and an air conditioner were used to keep Heemeyer cool while driving and compressed air nozzles were fitted to blow dust away from the video cameras. Food, water and life support[clarification needed] were present in the almost airtight cabin. Heemeyer had no intention of leaving the cabin once he entered; the hatch was permanently sealed. Authorities speculated Heemeyer may have used a homemade crane found in his garage to lower the armor hull over the dozer and himself. "Once he tipped that lid shut, he knew he wasn't getting out", Daly said. Investigators searched the garage where they believe Heemeyer built the vehicle and found cement, armor and steel.
Afterwards, the modified bulldozer came to be known as "Killdozer", although only Heemeyer was killed in the incident.
On June 4, 2004, Heemeyer drove his armored bulldozer through the wall of his former business, the concrete plant, the Town Hall, the office of the local newspaper that editorialized against him, the home of a former judge's widow, and a hardware store owned by another man Heemeyer named in a lawsuit, as well as others. Owners of all the buildings that were damaged had some connection to Heemeyer's disputes.
Heemeyer's rampage resulted in 13 buildings destroyed, resulting in total damages estimated at more than $7 million. The bulldozer also knocked out natural gas service to City Hall and the cement plant, and damaged a truck and part of a utility service center. Despite the great damage to property, no one besides Heemeyer was killed.
According to Grand County commissioner James Newberry, Grand County emergency dispatchers used the reverse 911 emergency system to notify many residents and property owners of the rampage going on in the town. Thus, many people were warned and were able to get out of harm's way.
Defenders of Heemeyer contended that he made a point of not hurting anybody during his bulldozer rampage; Ian Daugherty, a bakery owner, said Heemeyer "went out of his way" not to harm anyone. Others offered different views. The sheriff's department argues that the fact that no one was injured was not due to good intent as much as it must have been due to luck. Heemeyer had installed two rifles in firing ports on the inside of the bulldozer, and fired 15 bullets from his rifle at power transformers and propane tanks. "Had these tanks ruptured and exploded, anyone within one-half mile of the explosion could have been endangered", the sheriff's department said; within such a range were 12 police officers and residents of a senior citizens complex. The sheriff's department also asserted Heemeyer fired many bullets from his semi-automatic rifle at Cody Docheff when Docheff tried to stop the assault on his concrete batch plant by using a scraper. Later, Heemeyer fired on two state troopers before they had fired at him. The sheriff's department also notes that 11 of the 13 buildings Heemeyer bulldozed were occupied until moments before their destruction. At the town library, for example, a children's program was in progress when the incident began. There might have been casualties if local emergency response hadn't worked so effectively.
One officer dropped a flash-bang grenade down the bulldozer's exhaust pipe, with no immediate apparent effect. Local and state police, including a SWAT team, walked behind and beside the bulldozer occasionally firing, but the armored bulldozer was impervious to their shots. Attempts to disable the bulldozer's cameras with gunfire failed as the bullets were unable to penetrate the 3-inch bullet-resistant plastic. At one point during the rampage, Undersheriff Glenn Trainor managed to climb atop the bulldozer and rode the bulldozer "like a bronc-buster, trying to figure out a way to get a bullet inside the dragon". However, he was eventually forced to jump off to avoid being hit with debris. Further attempts to mount the bulldozer were hampered due to oil that Heemeyer had spread on the vehicle to hinder such attempts.
Two problems arose as Heemeyer destroyed the Gambles hardware store. The radiator of the dozer had been damaged and the engine was leaking various fluids, and Gambles had a small basement. The bulldozer's engine failed and Heemeyer dropped one tread into the basement and couldn't get out. The bulldozer became stuck. About a minute later, one of the SWAT team members who had swarmed around the machine reported hearing a single gunshot from inside the sealed cab. Heemeyer had shot himself. The coroner stated that Heemeyer used his .357-caliber handgun in the suicide.
Heemeyer's body was subsequently removed by police with a crane, though it took twelve hours for them to cut through the hatch with an oxyacetylene cutting torch.
Fate of the bulldozer
On April 19, 2005, it was announced that Heemeyer's bulldozer was being taken apart for scrap metal. It was planned that individual pieces would be dispersed to many separate scrap yards to prevent admirers of Heemeyer from taking souvenirs.
In addition to writings that he left on the wall of his shed, Heemeyer recorded a number of audio tapes explaining his motivation for the attack. He mailed these to his brother in South Dakota shortly before stepping into his bulldozer. Heemeyer's brother turned the tapes over to the FBI, who in turn sent them to the Grand County Sheriff's Department. The tapes were released by the Grand County Sheriff's Office on August 31, 2004. The tapes are about two and a half hours in length.
The first recording was made on April 13, 2004. The last recording was made 13 days before the rampage.
"God built me for this job", Heemeyer said in the first recording. He also said it was God's plan that he not be married or have a family so that he could be in a position to carry out such an attack. "I think God will bless me to get the machine done, to drive it, to do the stuff that I have to do", he said. "God blessed me in advance for the task that I am about to undertake. It is my duty. God has asked me to do this. It's a cross that I am going to carry and I'm carrying it in God's name."
Heemeyer's actions were apparently a political statement. In the audio tapes, he states: "Because of your anger, because of your malice, because of your hate, you would not work with me. I am going to sacrifice my life, my miserable future that you gave me, to show you that what you did is wrong."[this quote needs a citation]
Investigators later found Heemeyer's handwritten list of targets. According to the police, it included the buildings he destroyed, the local Catholic Church (which he didn't damage), and the names of various people who had sided against him in past disputes.
- Jerusalem bulldozer attack of 2008
- Shawn Nelson, who went on a rampage in San Diego with an M60 Patton main battle tank stolen from a California National Guard armory in 1995.
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- Ingold, John; Brittany Anas; Howard Pankratz (June 6, 2004). "'Something snapped': Suspect called emotional, angry over rezoning fight". The Denver Post. pp. A01. "'He has threatened my husband's life,' resident Christie Baker recalled. 'He threatened my husband over a muffler.' Baker said she and her husband, Doug, had taken a truck to Heemeyer's shop, and he installed the wrong type of muffler on it. They refused to pay, and Christie Baker said they soon heard through word of mouth about Heemeyer's threat. They paid the $124 in cash, using an intermediary to give Heemeyer the money, she said."
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- Rampaging Bulldozer Driver Found Dead. A direct order from the Governor for deployment is required due to Posse Comitatus Act
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- Discovery Channel – Destroyed in Seconds video
- Washington Post Article
- Denver Channel Article
- CBS4: Bulldozer Rampage Revisited
- YouTube – News Coverage
- Site detailing Marvin Heemeyer's dispute with City Hall
- Granby Damage, includes several pictures of the incident