Back in 2004, Marvin John Heemeyer, a 52-year-old man, secured his place in history following his decision to destroy several buildings as a way to protest a ruling the city had made against him.
What made his actions so unique was that he used a modified bulldozer to inflict the damage after he got into a disagreement with officials from Granby town. The self-professed "reasonable man" had reached his limit.
Marvin owned an automobile muffler repair shop. The town officials had disconnected his business from the city's sewage system and then fined him for improper sewage dumping.
His resentment grew over time, and during a period of nearly two years, he modified a Komatsu D355A bulldozer by adding layers of steel and concrete to it, turning it into an armored vehicle.
He used the sturdy piece of equipment to destroy Granby town hall, the former mayor's house, and many other buildings. After that, he took his life after the bulldozer was stuck in the basement of a store he was taking down. Later, it became apparent that he did not intend to get out of the bulldozer alive.
Before the incident, Marvin had stayed in the town for over a decade. Despite how he met his end, a friend confessed that he was a likable man. His own brother described him as someone who would "bend over backward for anyone."
However, not everybody thought he was as friendly as his friends and family claimed. According to a former customer, a third party had to be involved when paying him after getting into a fierce dispute with Marvin over a muffler repair job.
The Zoning Dispute That Broke The Camel's Back
The problem started after Marvin bought 2 acres of land for $42,000 to build a muffler shop back in 1992. Later, he decided to sell the land to Cody Docheff so that it could be used to build a concrete plant.
Initially, the agreed price was $250,000. Apparently, he increased the price to $375,000 before hiking it to about $1 million.
Later, the Granby zoning commission allowed the construction of the concrete plant on the land adjacent to his, a decision which Marvin appealed against without success. He argued that the construction was blocking access to his shop.
Eventually, he was fined $2,500 for many violations, including "not being hooked up to the sewer line." However, the truth is that Marvin was unable to do so because the sewer line was 18 meters (60 feet) from his property, and he was expected to spend close to $80,000 to have the connector laid.
After making his "Killdozer," Marvin drove it through his former business' wall, the concrete plant, the town hall, the office of a local paper that had reported against him, the home of a former mayor, and a hardware store.
Before going on a rampage, he had sold his property and leased it to a trash company. So, it was not like he was destroying his own place of business.
In the end, he had destroyed 13 buildings. The entire process took two hours and seven minutes.
He also ended up destroying natural gas service by going to the town hall and the concrete plant. His demolition also resulted in a damaged truck.
Incredibly, only Marvin lost his life during the demolition, which caused damage worth about $7 million.
Many of his defenders argued that he made sure he did not hurt anyone during the demolition. However, the sheriff's department said that luck was the only reason nobody was harmed.
Marvin also had two rifles installed within the bulldozer, and he used them to fire at power transformers and propane tanks. He also fired at Cody Docheff when he tried to stop him.
Why Didn't Anyone Stop Him For Over 2 Hours?
Considering that Marvin carried out his plan for over two hours, you have to wonder: why didn't anyone try to stop him sooner? How did he end up destroying 13 buildings as people watched?
As you might recall, Marvin turned a bulldozer into an armored vehicle.
In fact, there were several attempts to sabotage his plan, but they were all unsuccessful. For instance, when a grenade was thrown down the bulldozer's exhaust, its impact, if any, was barely apparent. The police and the SWAT also came in, and their attempts to fire at the Killdozer were not successful.
In fact, not even attempts to stop the vehicle's cameras with guns worked, as the bullets could not get through the 3 inches of bulletproof plastic.
An attempt by an undersheriff to find a place at the top of the bulldozer from which to get inside did not pan out either, as there was debris falling all around him. Additionally, having foreseen this move, Marvin had greased up the shell, which is why the undersheriff slipped off and abandoned that plan.
When the authorities realized how helpless they were, desperation started to creep in. After all, the deranged man could turn against civilians without anyone being able to stop him. That is why they even considered using a missile, but before they could carry out this plan, Marvin got stuck in the basement of a store he was destroying.
However, the office of the governor has denied ever having any such plan. A missile would have done more than stop the demolition on its tracks: it would also have caused substantial collateral damage far greater than that caused by Marvin and his Killdozer.
By the time the demolition stopped, the bulldozer's radiator had suffered some serious damage. Additionally, the engine failed, and it was leaking various fluids. After that, a gunshot was heard inside the heavily fortified cabin. Authorities later learned that it was Marvin shooting himself in the head with a handgun.
Explosives were also used as an attempt to gain access into the bulldozer after the destruction stopped, but this technique was no match for the thick steel plates used in its construction. Eventually, the only option was to use an oxyacetylene cutting torch.
Marvin left behind some thoughts on the motivations behind his actions. In total, there were three tapes and some writings on the wall of his shed.
The tapes were mailed to his brother in South Dakota before he got into the bulldozer. They were later handed over to the FBI, and the recordings totaled about two and a half hours. The last of his recordings were made about two weeks before the destruction he carried out.
He explained that God had made him for the job and that the reason he was not married was so that he could carry out the attack. In the tapes, he wrote:
"It is my duty. God asked me to do this. It's a cross that I am going to carry and I'm carrying it in God's name."
His targets included the buildings he damaged, a local Catholic church, and many people who had opposed him in past disputes, including the mayor. However, his main target was the concrete plant, which he did not want anywhere near his shop. He was also unhappy with the zoning decisions that did not favor him:
"I was always willing to be reasonable until I had to be unreasonable. Sometimes reasonable men must do unreasonable things."
In the recordings, he called the modified Komatsu D355A an "MK Tank." The bulldozer could not be destroyed using explosives or fire from small arms. Additionally, the bulldozer offered no direct access to the outside. Therefore, it had many video cameras for visibility, and they were connected to two monitors.
Some People Consider Marvin A Hero
As far as some people were concerned, Marvin was victimized by an indifferent government, which approved the construction of a concrete plant without considering its impact on his muffler business.
For this reason, many people see him as a "little guy" who had the guts to stand up to "the man," which makes him a hero.
However, those affected by his destruction directly don't feel the same way. Marvin was armed, he fired shots, and he destroyed buildings still occupied moments before he carried out the demolitions. That means he could easily have hurt several people were it not for blind luck and the fact that his bulldozer broke down before he had the chance.
Although Marvin was wronged, he also wronged many.
That is why people still debate to this day if he was a hero or not. His actions have already inspired two movies and similar reactions from people who feel that the authorities are oppressing them.
Eventually, his Killdozer was sent off in several pieces to various scrap yards so that his admirers wouldn't use it is as a blueprint to make similar pieces of equipment.