In 1992, a man named Marvin Heemeyer purchased two acres of land in Granby, Colorado, about a two hour drive from Denver. A decade later, he bought a bulldozer. And two years after that, he lost his mind.
Heemeyer was a welder who owned a muffler repair shop — a shop he operated on the two acre plot — for most of the 1990s. The land cost him about $40,000 and almost turned into a massive windfall for him. At some point toward the end of that decade, another business wanted to buy his land for a concrete factory they were building, and Heemeyer’s land was worth a premium. Heemeyer apparently agreed to sell for $250,000, but changed his mind shortly thereafter and asked for more, perhaps as much as $1 million. Not taking kindly to the hold-out asking for more money, the acquiring company rejected Heemeyer’s revised offer and instead went to the local government, and asked the town to rezone the area surrounding the muffler repair shop. In 2001, the town agreed. The decision rendered Heemeyer’s plot worthless. And to make matters worse for the repair man, the rezoned land encompassed the muffler shop, making it difficult at best for customers to come to his business. The town’s decision effectively took Heemeyer to the poor house.
Heemeyer became a thorn in the side of the town government, understandably. He appealed the ruling, but was ultimately unsuccessful. He gathered signatures from others in town, petitioning against the plant, also to no avail. Meanwhile, town inspectors found a handful of violations on Heemeyer’s property, levying fines against him. But Heemeyer was undaunted. He ended up buying the above-mentioned bulldozer, and proposed to the town that he create a new road to his muffler shop, likely on his dime, with this new vehicle. But the town said no.
So Heemeyer turned the bulldozer into a different solution — a heavily armored one with cameras and rifles, seen below.
The transformation took roughly 18 months, by some reports, as Heemeyer added all sorts of non-standard accouterments to his otherwise-vanilla bulldozer. First, there was the composite armor — concrete encased in two slabs of steel, at some points over a foot thick in total. Then, the camera system, with lenses covered with three inches of bullet-resistant plastic and a pair of monitors stationed inside the bulldozer’s cabin. Then there were the rifles, positioned to allow Heemeyer to take aim at threats from either side of his metal contraption. Finally, he covered the top in oil to make it difficult at best for anyone to mount what others later called the “Killdozer.”
On June 4, 2004, Heemeyer took the Killdozer for a spin around town — or, more accurate, through town, as seen in this video. He drove into the concrete plant, of course, but also town hall, the office of the local newspaper, the homes of a few town officials, and the businesses and houses of a bunch of others who he believed wronged him during his zoning fight. During his rampage, state and local police fired armor-piercing bullets, used flash-bang grenades, and tried to jump onto the tank-bulldozer to gain entry by hand. One of the owners of the concrete factory even brought out a piece of heavy machinery — unarmored — hoping to go toe-to-toe with the Killdozer. None of these things were effective, and local authorities considered asking the federal government for Apache helicopter support.
Fortunately for all involved — other than Heemeyer, that is — the Killdozer came to a stop when it got stuck in the basement of one of its victimized buildings. Heemeyer took his own life with a pistol he carried with him into the machine, and investigators later realized that he likely never intended to leave the contraption alive anyway. He had managed to seal himself inside, never to exit — and he had done such a thorough job in doing so that no one could get in, either. After the catastrophe came to an end, it took officials more than ten hours to blowtorch their way inside.
In total, the Killdozer’s path of destruction resulted in an estimated $7 million in damages. And even though 11 of the 13 buildings he attacked were occupied right before he plowed through them, there were no casualties other than the assailant himself.
From the Archives: Frozen Film: How a bulldozer helped save film history.
Related: Over two hundred dollars worth of body armor.