— Do You Remember That Guy Who Fought City Hall? And Won (Kinda)!

Yea, I know they say you can’t fight City Hall.  But Marvin Heemeyer did.  And he did so with a modified Komatsu Bulldozer that would, M Heemeyerfairly or unfairly, be dubbed, the “Killdozer” — Unfairly, because it didn’t actually kill anyone. Fairly because it was a sinister piece of garage-engineered, perfection built for one specific purpose AND it successfully completed that purpose for which it was designed.  It was made to give the operator enough means, time, and protection to knock down buildings until it could not go any further and allow the operator time to kill himself after it was stopped.  Therefore, there can be no doubt it succeeded.

FUN FACT: The name “Killdozer” was first coined from a novella and Comic Book from 1944 but is most famous for the 1974 low-budget movie of the same name.

So What Went Down?

The year was 2004, The location was Granby, Colorado… Marvin Heemeyer was a welder and muffler shop owner.  But just a couple of years prior, he decided to sell his business to a concrete company.  Well, negotiations did not go as planned and the deal fell through.  The property he was going to sell, had his muffler shop located on it.  His business was set back from the main road and the concrete company bought the land between his shop and that main road.  No ‘biggie right?  Wrong!  Because that cut his (and his customers’) access road to his muffler shop.  The concrete plant location also meant that his sewer line would be cut because it was now someone else’ property.  So he went to city hall to get zoning variances in hopes of keeping his business going…

Well, he thought City hall would approve his bid to pave a new road so he bought a bulldozer.  He thought he could put in a septic system but City Hall had to approve it.  After attending years worth of City Hall meetings, providing testimony, providing plans, getting recommendations and ‘playing the game, City Hall wouldn’t approve him for either.  Local politicians, the local paper, and others thought the town would benefit from the taxes and jobs provided by the concrete plant and some were lobbying against him.   The City Hall was composed of other local business-owners and they wanted his business dead – and him gone.  Even understanding that their decisions would mean his shop would have to close, they still refused the road and required him to route a sewer line to his property at his own expense — despite his having met the city/town code prior to the city selling the property in front of his business.  And then to top it off, they fined him for not having a sewer line attached and threatened more fines until he complied.

They left him with nothing, no way to make money, and no choice but to sell his business and his, now isolated, property.  He sold it and used the money towards another enterprise.

The Killdozer

What do you do with a left over Bulldozer after you’ve been forced to sell your business?  Why you turn it into a bad maama-Jaama.  You take two, half-inch steel sheets and sandwich 10-12 inches of concrete in-between and create a bunch of panels.  You take the panels, and then weld that all around your bulldozer.  You cover up some of your more delicate parts like the transmission, radiator, and drive wheels.  You add some ballistic-glass covered cameras to ensure you can see out.  You make it a full cocoon of nice, thick armor.  Finally, and most importantly, you add some guns.  An “assault rifle”, a high-caliber hunting rifle, and one big-assed .50 Caliber Barrett anti-equipment rifle.

KD FromToWith all of that, Heemeyer just built a machine that Mad Max, himself, would envy.  Something so massive that it could practically get past any obstacles thrown in its way (including the massive construction equipment the police used in an attempt to stop it).  A vehicle that bullets ricochet off of with no detrimental effect to the vehicle.  He built a vehicle that has armor more thick than a ww2 Sherman tank’s 76mm (3in) front plating.

On 4 June, Heemyer climbed up into a hatch on the roof, closed it and welded it shut behind him.  He then started up his ‘dozer and drove through the walls of the storage space he rented from a local trash company and he unleashed Killdozer upon the town.  He set a course through town at an excruciatingly slow 5mph and began smashing through the walls of buildings owned by those whom he felt had screwed him over in the sale of his property, the concrete plant deal, and those who cost him his muffler business.

His list of Killdozer targets would include the Concrete Plant he had an issue with, the City Hall building, and the home of the then-deceased mayor who had passed away 3 years prior to Heemeyer’s action.  He only destroyed the buildings he wanted to destroy.  He went after an apartment building and other business owned by town council members.  He smashed into the newspaper building who had been railing against him (although they did publish his complaints). He was unstoppable.  He tangled with other construction vehicles meant to stop him including a Front End Loader and a Large Road Scraper.  The front end loader stood no chance and the Scraper got pushed out of the way.  Nothing could stop the Komatsu.  Local Law Enforcement even suggested that the Air Force bring in a A-10 Warthog to stop him.  Warthogs were designed to kill tanks (and no doubt would have caused some serious damage — to Grandby as well as the Killdozer.

In total, he damaged 13 Buildings, shot up a propane tank, some electric transformers (some surmise he was trying to cause a large explosion), ran over some cars including a police car, smashed up the Grandby Library and other City/Town resources.  While he was KD a stuck in buildingbringing down a Gambles Hardware store that was owned by another councilman, the heavy bulldozer slipped its right tread into the basement of the building.  Because the ‘dozer was so heavy and the engine was overheated and failing, it could not climb itself out and was stuck.  Killdozer’s engine gave up the ghost minutes later.  After 2 hours of destruction, Grandby was quiet.

And then, from inside the dozer, a muffled bang was heard by the powerless police who had been on foot, following Heemeyer and his slow vehicle.  After cutting and torching for hours, the police finally got in to find a dead Marvin Heemeyer.

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Lessons Learned

After something like this happens, we have to reflect and ask what went wrong and how we can avoid it in the future.  It’s easy to say (as some did) that,  “We have to stop crazy people”, and that is always true.  But the truth is that if his society left him alone to work on mufflers, he likely would not have done this.  If the city hall allowed him to reroute his road and allowed him to route his sewer without fining him, there likely would have been no need for him to be pissed enough to take this action.  City Hall IS NOT a victim.  It’s Government and as any Libertarian knows “Government is not reason, it is force”.  He went out of business, because his government forced him out of business.

Now, if you ask me if I think Marvin Heemeyer is a bad guy, I cannot say “yes”.  I’m not KD a Side viewsure he is evil, bad, or crazy.  I didn’t know him.  But this does not appear to be a “Rampage” since no one else was hurt and it appears he avoided innocent persons.  If he was a bad person, wouldn’t he knock down any structures and try to kill people, regardless of whether they were involved with his dispute or not?  Obviously, Yes!

In the end, I don’t know if you can say he won or not?  But he did NOT lose.  He made his point and left this earth on his own terms.  Some would suggest he’s a hero.  I don’t know about that — but this should be a reminder that some people will not accept their destruction as something they should “move on” from.  I would imagine that if more people had the resources, skill (welding) and nothing left to lose, they might attempt the same types of actions against other city halls.  Government aught be careful!

Now, why wasn’t this episode in American history turned into a movie?  I have no idea!  We’ll make a movie about a wife who kills her husband.  Or a guy getting revenge on his boss.  But a guy getting revenge on a town that wronged him with a armored bulldozer… That’s probably controversial because he’s standing up to a government, and is not the message governments want seen by the “masses”.  But I’d pay to see it.

Kali Pinckney

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