NewsCrime

Actions

'Killdozer' 20 years later: How and why a man went on a rampage through Granby in an armored bulldozer

granby1.png
Posted at 10:06 AM, Jun 04, 2024

GRANBY, Colo. — Twenty years ago, a man bent on destroying the town of Granby for perceived wrongs got into his modified bulldozer and went on a rampage that thrust the small mountain town into the national spotlight.

It's been called the "Killdozer" rampage, and on June 4, 2004, it played out on the streets of the Grand County town of Granby to the horrors of residents and business owners alike.

The armored 85-ton bulldozer, modified and driven by Marvin Heemeyer, knocked down 13 buildings and destroyed a large portion of Granby’s business district, causing more than $5 million in damages.

GRANBY
GRANBY, CO, JUNE 05, 2004 - (r-l) Captain Gary Torgerson of the CO State Patrol and James Holahan, Manager of the Grand County Office of Emergency Management examine the fortified bulldozer driven by Marvin Heemeyer where it came to rest at Gambles of Grand County on highway 40 in Granby, CO. The shop was destroyed when a fortified bulldozer driven by Marvin Heemeyer plowed into it. Heemeyer drove a fortified bulldozer through the streets of Granby Friday detroying a number of buildings.

“The slow-motion rampage left a trail of splintered structures in this mountain tourist town outside Rocky Mountain National Park,” the Associated Press reported in 2004.

Heemeyer shot from the bulldozer as well, including from a 50-caliber rifle. No one was killed.

The ordeal ended in Heemeyer taking his own life inside the cabin as swat members began moving in on the stuck makeshift tank.

Patrick Brower, the newspaper publisher in Granby back in June of 2004, talked to Denver7 four years ago about the incident and the book he wrote about the rampage titled “Killdozer.”

GRANBY
GRANBY, CO, JUNE 05, 2004 - The Sky-News Building was badly damaged if not destroyed by the fortified bulldozer driven by Marvin Heemeyer on highway 40 in Granby, CO. Heemeyer drove a fortified bulldozer through the streets of Granby Friday destroying a number of buildings.

Brower described the lead-up to the rampage as happening over several years and several incidents. He said Heemeyer was upset with his neighbors after losing a property dispute over land near his muffler shop and upset with the town when they didn’t take his side.

Several lawsuits were filed and also thrown out.

“He vowed to get back at the people he felt somehow had wronged him,” Brower said in 2020.

AP reported that Heemeyer was also fined for not having a septic tank and other city code violations and wrote the word “Cowards” on a check he wrote to the city to cover the fines.

Fearing more destruction and possible deaths, it was alleged that then Colorado Governor Bill Owens was contemplating using the National Guard to stop Heemeyer’s rampage.

GRANBY
GRANBY, CO, JUNE 4, 2004 - An EMS officerwalks past the damaged Granby City Hall building on Friday, June 4th, 2004 after a man went on a rampage in a modified bulldozer through the town of Granby. (Photo by Hyoung Chang/The Denver Post)

“He was basically unstoppable and impregnable in that tank,” Brower said.

Heemeyer’s story was made into a full-length documentary called “Tread.”

“There’s sort of an implicit character question. Who would make that machine?” the film’s writer and director Paul Solet told Denver7 in a 2020 interview.

The documentary also includes interviews from Granby shot over several years.

“From the people whose livelihoods were destroyed by Heemeyer to those who loved Heemeyer the most and continue to support him,” Solet said.

GRANBY
GRANBY, CO, JUNE 05, 2004 - (l-r) Casey and Rhonda Farrell owners of Gambles of Grand County survey the damage to their business on Highway 40 in Granby, CO. The shop was destroyed when a fortified bulldozer driven by Marvin Heemeyer plowed into it. Heemeyer drove a fortified bulldozer through the streets of Granby Friday destroying a number of buildings.

That latter group of supporters is fairly large online, from websites to blog posts, of those who sympathize with the man who drove through, ran over, and shot at the community of Granby.

“They think of Mark as the itty bitty guy who fought back at the government that got in their way,” Brower said.

Many comments on the movie trailer’s YouTube page even call Heemeyer a “hero.”

“His intent was certainly to maim and kill,” former SWAT commander Grant Whitus countered.

GRANBY05
GRANBY, CO, JUNE 5, 2004 - A destroyed Exel energy truck is stuck into the Mountain Parks Electric building, 321 W. Agate Ave. in Granby on Saturday, June 5, 2004.

Whitus led the SWAT team out of Jefferson County that responded to Granby that day. He had differing thoughts on those who support Heemeyer and the movie’s trailer.

“To glamorize what he did and the way he did it for the reason he did it, I think is horrible,” he said in a phone interview.