Marvin John Heemeyer
|Born||Marvin John Heemeyer
October 28, 1951
|Died||June 4, 2004
Granby, Colorado, U.S.
|Cause of death||Self-inflicted gunshot|
|Known for||Domestic terrorism, "Killdozer" rampage|
Marvin John Heemeyer (October 28, 1951 – June 4, 2004) was an American 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 Gambles store he was in the process of destroying. 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 his muffler shop.
Heemeyer lived in Grand Lake, Colorado, about 16 miles (26 km) away from Granby. According to a neighbor, Heemeyer moved to town more than 10 years before 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 a likable 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 (0.81 hectares) 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 before the rampage; he 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 it.
Notes found by investigators after the incident indicate that the primary motivation for the bulldozer rampage was his fight to stop a concrete plant from being built near his shop. These notes indicated that he held grudges over the zoning approval. "I was always willing to be reasonable until I had to be unreasonable", he wrote. "Sometimes reasonable men must do unreasonable things." Heemeyer took about a year and a half to prepare; in his notes he wrote: "It is interesting to observe that I was never caught. This was a part-time project over a 1½ year time period." Clearly he was surprised that several men, who had visited the shed late the previous year, had not noticed the modified bulldozer "...especially with the 2000-pound 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 this armor was over 1 foot (30 cm) thick, consisting of 5000-psi Quikrete concrete mix sandwiched between sheets of tool steel (acquired from an automotive dealer in Denver), to make ad-hoc composite armor. This made the machine impervious to small arms fire and resistant to explosives: indeed three external explosions and more than 200 rounds of ammunition fired at the bulldozer had no effect on it.
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 (76 mm) 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. He had made three gun-ports, fitted for a .50 caliber sniper rifle, a .308 semi-automatic, and a .22 long rifle, all fitted with a half-inch-thick steel plate. Heemeyer apparently had no intention of leaving the cabin once he entered it. Authorities speculated he 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 and armor steel.
Afterwards the modified bulldozer came to be known as "Killdozer", although only Heemeyer was killed in the event.
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.
The rampage lasted 2 hours 7 minutes, destroying 13 buildings, knocking out natural gas service to City Hall and the cement plant, and damaging a truck and part of a utility service center. Despite the great damage to property, no one besides Heemeyer was killed. The cost of the damage was estimated at $7 million.
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 (800 m) 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 wheel tractor-scraper, which was pushed aside by Heemeyer's bulldozer. 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 had not worked 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. 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 removed by police. It took them twelve hours 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."
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.
- This event on Heemeyer's rampage was also shown on the History Channel as part of the series Shockwave. The episode aired on July 8, 2008.
- Russia's Golden Globe-winning film Leviathan was inspired by the story of Heemeyer.
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- "Armed man goes on bulldozer rampage". UMDstudents.com. Archived from the original on February 20, 2007. Retrieved June 5, 2007.
- 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.
- "Dozer rampage roots run deep". Durango Telegraph. June 24, 2004. Retrieved March 7, 2008.
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- "Rampager was surprised his plans went unnoticed". The Spokesman Review. June 10, 2004. Retrieved June 6, 2007.
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- "Shockwave Episode 08". The History Channel. February 1, 2008. Archived from the original on March 26, 2008. Retrieved February 1, 2008.
- Poppen, Julie (2004-10-24). "After bulldozer rampage, town strives to rebuild trust". The Boston Globe. Retrieved 2006-08-31.
- "Rampages – Tanks, Bulldozers, Whatever You Got!".
- Jason, Bellows. "The Wrath of the Killdozer". DamnInteresting.com. Retrieved 19 May 2014.
- Bina, Tonya. "Granby: 2004 bulldozer rampage subject of History Channel program". Sky-Hi Daily News. Retrieved May 18, 2008.
- "Interior of Bulldozer". The Denver Post. Retrieved September 26, 2007.
- Woodward, Paula. "Newly released audiotapes detail reasons for Granby bulldozer rampage". KUSA-TV. Retrieved June 6, 2009.
- "Man Who Bulldozed Granby Says He Got Idea From God". KMGH-TV. Retrieved April 8, 2008.
- "7NEWS Looks Inside Granby Work Shed Where 'Dozer Was Outfitted". KMGH-TV.
- "Filmmakers see a bigger message in Russia's 'Leviathan'". Los Angeles Times. December 30, 2014.
- Discovery Channel – Destroyed in Seconds video
- Washington Post Article
- Denver Channel Article
- CBS4: Bulldozer Rampage Revisited
- News Coverage on YouTube
- Site detailing Marvin Heemeyer's dispute with City Hall at the Wayback Machine (archived October 12, 2004)
- Granby Damage, includes several pictures of the incident
- "Rampage In Granby". The Denver Post. June 6, 2004.