Small town life is often romanticized in movies and books as peaceful and quiet, especially since more and more Americans now live in cities than at any point in the country’s history. People who actually live in small towns know that while often the people are friendly and there is indeed a lot of quiet, often bad blood runs deep.
Grandby, Colorado was just such a town. It would have been little more than another dot on the vast map of the central US if it wasn’t for one day in June of 2004, when one of her sons went on a bizarre rampage that would leave much of the downtown area in ruins.
Marvin Heemeyer was the man behind the rampage. Small town folks often hold grudges, and hold them for a long time, perhaps because the drama relieves the monotony of an otherwise placid existence. Whatever the case, Heemeyer was just such a man. The roots of his odd attack ran back at least four years, to a dispute with the town over the construction of a concrete plant near the muffler shop he owned. Heemeyer believed the plant, situated across the street from his shop, would ruin his business. He fought with the local planning authority to have the plant’s construction blocked, but he lost. These were only the most recent in a long line of disputes with local authorities over various issues. Some, after Heemeyer’s rampage, like to paint him as a martyr, but many who knew him from before claimed that he tended to attract the drama that defined his life. Even so, nobody could see the outburst on that summer day coming.
Soon after the concrete batch plant went up, Heemeyer was forced to sell his muffler shop to pay off debts. And then he set to work. He took an old bullozer and built a concrete and steel shell around the cab, turning the vehicle into a make-shift tank. He equipped it with cameras and monitors to steer with, and cut portholes for guns. He stocked the make-shift tank—later dubbed the Killdozer—with two semiautomatic rifles, a .223 caliber rifle, and two handguns.
On June 5, Heemeyer burst out of the garage where he’d spent months constructing his revenge vehicle and took his vengeance. He began with the concrete batch plant that had strangled his business. Once he smashed the plant, he turned his wrath toward the town’s center. He struck next at the combination City Hall and library, which was only moments before hosting a group of children for story hour. A librarian rushed them out the back door just before Heemeyer’s attack.
Several more buildings fell to Heemeyer’s behemoth vehicle, including a bank, an electric utility ofice, and the home of the former mayor who supported the concrete plant. Meanwhile, police tried in vain to stop the rampage. They fired over two hundred shots at the tank, but they had nothing powerful enough to penetrate the hardened concrete and steel shell. One brave officer jumped on top the contraption to drop a flashbang grenade down the smokestack, but to no effect.
Some point out that no one died during the attack, and claim that Heemeyer was avoidoing doing harm to anyone. A look at witness testimony quickly dismisses that assertion. Heemeyer took shots at large propane tanks, evidently trying to detonate them. He also shot at electric transformers. Worse, he took potshots at police officers. Clearly, luck and the actions of local authorities in getting people out of harms way did more to prevent a tragedy than Heemeyer himself.
However, while the police might have prevented any deaths, they were powerless ot stop the Killdozer. Only the sheer weight of the contraption eventually did it in. The tank fell through the floor of the local hardware store and became stuck in the basement. When Heemeyer found he could not extricate himself from the hole, he chose to end his life, thus bringing an end to the rampage.
Granby is quiet these days, its brief moment of fame long since gone. Millions of dollars of damage was inflicted on the sleepy town by Heemeyer’s rampage, but the scars to the town’s collective psyche run deeper than any physical destruction one of its wayward sons could wreak. Now the people of Granby have to eye their neighbors with suspicion, unsure when a slight or dispute could lead to another day of terror like the one that struck Granby on June 5, 2004.
Banda, P. Solomon. “Armed man in bulldozer goes on rampage in Colorado town.” tcnj.edu. June 5. 2004. Accessed on August 25, 2014. http://www.tcnj.edu/~hofmann/Granby/Granby.htm
Poppen, Julie. “After bulldozer rampage, town strives to rebuild trust.” Boston.com. October 24, 2004. Boston.com. August 25, 2014. http://www.boston.com/news/nation/articles/2004/10/24/after_bulldozer_rampage_town_strives_to_rebuild_trust/
Reid, T.R. “Man Behind Rampage Found Dead.” WashingtonPost.com. June 6, 2004. The Washington Post. August 25, 2014. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A18948-2004Jun5.html