The Machine

Marvin Heemeyer – Muffler Shop Owner

Image by John Garrison.

When a neighbor wanted to build a concrete plant next to Marvin Heemeyer’s property, he fought back.

Final song: Black Shore by Úlfur from the album White Mountain.

Patrick Brower’s book is Killdozer: The True Story of the Colorado Bulldozer Rampage

PLAYLIST
(in order of appearance)
Eugenius Rudnik – Dixi – Polish Radio Experimental Studio (1957-2003)

Harald Grosskopf – While I’m Walking – Oceanheart

Monoton & Konrad Becker — Ein Wort — Blau – Monotonprodukt 02 26y++

D.K. — Days of Steam — Distant Images

Monoton & Konrad Becker — Teil 2 — Blau – Monotonprodukt 02 26y++

Vermont — Ufer — II

Loren Connors — Blues No. 3 — Blues: The ‘Dark Paintings’ of Mark Rothko

Amon Tobin — Nova — Permutation

Monoton & Konrad Becker — Wirklichkeit — Blau – Monotonprodukt 02 26y++

Woo — Demi Paradise — A La Luna

Ex Confusion — All Alright — With Love

Loscil — Anthropocene — Monument Builders

UMFANG — Path — Symbolic Use Of Light

Goner — YS 2 (Edit) — The Wire Tapper 45

Monoton & Konrad Becker — Leben Im Dchungel
— Blau – Monotonprodukt 02 26y++

Steven Jackson — Rampage — N/A

Emptyset — Descent — Borders

Tim Motzer — Ring (Edit) — The Wire Tapper 45

Bill Orcutt — Lonely Woman — Bill Orcutt

Ex Confusion — When I Think of You — Embrace

Loscil — Ahull — Sea Island

BadBadNotGood — Hedron — Late Night Tales: Bonobo

Alexander Robotnick — Can I Have An Ashtray? — Can I Have An Ashtray?

Christopher Willits — Simplicity — Horizon

Pauline Anna Strom — Gossamer Silk — Trans-Millenia Music

Eugenius Rudnik – Dixi – Polish Radio Experimental Studio (1957-2003)

Carl Stone — Banteay Srey 1991 — Mom’s

TRANSCRIPT

MH = Marvin Heemeyer

M = Dan McClelland

CD = Cody Docheff

ID = Ian D

LC = Lori Crain

MR = Matthew Redd

SS = Stu Spencer

PB = Patrick Brower

GT = Gary Thompson

LT = Larry Thompson

CF = Casey Farrell

RF = Rhonda Farrell

JK = Jim Kraker

DH = Deb Hesse

[Intro.]

MH: Hello. My name is Marvin Heemeyer. Today is, uh, let’s see here. April 13th, 2004. 

M: Oftentimes, the problem is that we want to look at things, and we look at them too closely.

MH: I am making this tape. I thought I should make it a year ago, made part of it, didn’t like it. 

M: In high school, we teach history completely wrong. Well, this happened on this date, and this is the result.

MH: Really didn’t think it’d make any difference if I did make it, but a good friend of mine said I should make it. He said I should sit down in front of a video tape machine and do it, but you’re just gonna have to take my word that this is Marv Heemeyer, serial number 503689471. And, uh, I’m living in Grand Lake, Colorado. 

M: Well, something happened the day before that caused that event to happen. So you have to look at the broader picture. Because nothing happens because of one event. 

MH: And, this tape is about my life since I came over here to Grand Lake in 1991. I moved up here in the fall about 1991 to kind of take a 6 month vacation… 

HOST: From Radiotopia, you’re listening to Love and Radio. I’m Nick van der Kolk. Today’s episode: The Machine. 

M: I think you need to start off with the late 1980s. That was the beginning of a severe recession. 

ARCHIVE: The savings & loan industry has collapsed. 

ARCHIVE: Everyday Americans, many of them senior citizens, lost millions of dollars. 

ARCHIVE: It is the largest financial scandal in the history of the world. 

M: A lot of businesses got caught up in these bankruptcies. 

ARCHIVE: I think that every American citizen has every right in the world to be disturbed and shocked. 

M: Two banks, the bank of Granby and the bank of Winter Park, they had a lot of really bad outstanding loans. 

ARCHIVE: The FDIC performs a number of missions…

M: The banks were taken over by the FDIC. 

ARCHIVE: …It handles the failures of all types of banks… 

M: They came in, seized different properties, so they would have these auctions that they’d auction off these foreclosed properties. Well, one of these properties was what was to become Marv Heemeyer’s. 

MH: It was an old concrete plant that had gone bankrupt and had two acres of ground. 

M: He went to the auction and he looked at this property. 

MH: Anyway, this one finally came up for bid, and I got a bid for 40 and this other guy, jumped up on it here, that’s how I knew where it was, of course he did 45,000, and of course, I bid 50,000. 

M: Cody Docheff, who was the owner of the property originally, he went and he was trying to buy as much of the property back as he could. He didn’t have enough money to buy the property, so there was a little bit of a conflict there. Kinda hard feelings. 

MH: I mean, this guy’s just a fucking asshole. 

CD: He bought the shop that I used to own from the FDIC. 

MH: Just giving me a tonguelashing for about 10 minutes. 

CD: I didn’t have no problem with that.

MH: I mean, he’s Mr. Napoleon all the way, in the worst way. The guy just couldn’t deal with the fact that he was little. 

CD: He wanted everything his way. If it didn’t go his way, you was his enemy or something. 

M: So Marv buys this property.

MH: Started putting on mufflers, and advertising, and everything. 

M: You know, he’s a very talented welder, mechanic, he was into rebuilding old classic cars. And he opens up a muffler shop.

MH: Figured I was going to do a good thing, anyway. I’m getting ahead of myself. In ’92, I was cleaning the property…

ID: Marv Heemeyer was a good friend of mine. I owned Ian’s Mountain Bakery in Granby. I had it for 18 years. He’d come in for every day for my soup and bread. I made the best french bread you ever had. With a little butter on it, it was even better. And Marv loved my clam chowder. He liked my green chili. But he loved my clam chowder. 

I remember the first time I ever took Marv fishing. I took Marv salmon snagging. I had this little boat. And I don’t believe Marv caught so many fish. And after that salmon snagging trip, he was wanting to do stuff with me. 

LC: I owned the Snowmobile dealership from 1997 to 2003. People that have never snowmobiled, they get ’em stuck all the time. It takes a lot to get a snowmobile unstuck. I would hear stories of all these renters coming back down and saying that somebody helped them, and I said, well, who was it, so I can thank them! And it was Marv, a lot of times. 

MR: Snowmobiling, you know, you meet a lot of really cool people, and he kept a group together, the “Thursday crew” as we called it–

SS: Well, we were part of the Thursday crowd, every Thursday at Grand Lake. We were Thursday riders, for years. That’s what we did. 

MR: When we first moved here, he kinda tried to date my mom, actually. He’d work on the muffler on her car and stuff.

SS: Just a regular old, hardworking dude. You know? Very self-sufficient. 

LC: He had a good sense of humor. And he hung around with people that would make you laugh. 

MR: If you’re at breakfast, or just walked in, he’d be the one to pay your tab. 

LC: He was tall, he was a good-looking guy. 

SS: He was like my older brother.

MR: He was fun to be around, all the time. Great energy.

LC: He was just a good guy.

SS: He was a great guy.

MH: Life was pretty good, and just was going along, happy, and in ’98, I believe it was, this Docheff guy, he’s– he’s gonna try to buy the property next door, to the west of me. 

CD: When we bought this 22 acres down here, and we went to the town board, see if we could get a permit for a ready-mix plant. Batch plant. 

M: He mixes concrete. That’s his business. Well, under the zoning regulations, that requires a special use permit. And you have to go through a process. 

MH: I didn’t want no frigging concrete plant next to me. Especially upwind of me. I mean, I was going to be right in the dust hail of this whole operation.

CD: We went to town board meetings, about a year and a half, or two years, whatever.  

PB: I covered every single meeting. All the way up to the end. And Marv showed up and made lot of comments. He rallied the neighborhood to come out against it, initially.

CD: He had a bunch of little children sitting out there in front him. Saying the dust, the noise, the this, the pollution. And all of that, you know.

PB: He would stand up, and you know, give speeches. He also wrote letters that summarized his concerns.

ARCHIVE: I believe the proposed plant will result in a decrease in property values. And and increase in pollution. 

PB: Marv said there was going to be a dust problem. 

ARCHIVE: Meteorological impacts to the town, especially schools and churches may be devastating…

PB: He said there was going to be a noise problem. He said there was going to be a lighting problem. 

ARCHIVE: Is this what the residents of Granby want to look at for the next 20 or even 50 years? I hope not…

PB: So, in a way, he was campaigning for, almost environmental, quality-of-life issues.

ARCHIVE: Please help to defeat this proposal by writing more letters to your town trustees. Marvin Heemeyer, Granby in Grand Lake. 

PB: If he would bring in a letter, I would want to work on it with him, if I had to make changes, I would want to explain it to him, and show him what I was doing, rather than, he’d certainly be surprised if the letter doesn’t come back the way he wants it. We did that several times. [Was that weird?] Not really, because I didn’t know Marv hated my guts. 

MH: This newspaper guy, Patrick Brower, big liberal, army brat, has had everything in his life given to him. But he knows how to use the power of the pen. 

PB: I considered it sort of a professional-slash… just a professional relationship relationship between us. 

MH: I’m gonna take a little break. I guess I’m not going to take a break. I’m losing my train of thought. Anyways, this Patrick Brower, I mean, he’s a pothead, of course, you can’t tell anybody that…

ID: Marv tried to sell it as, oh, this would be bad for the town of Granby, you know, and it was, but Marv didn’t give a shit about that. He just did not like Cody Docheff. It was bad blood. You know, it was nothing but a Hatfield and McCoy feud. Now Cody Docheff owns a beautiful piece of property out on that Williams Fork road. He could have put that batch plant out there, and no one would have ever saw. But Cody Docheff didn’t like Marv either. And, you know, it makes more sense, you know, he’s closer to town, he doesn’t have to drive his trucks, burning up gas, but I’m sure in the back of Mr. Docheff’s mind, he was like, I’m going to fuck Marv. And I’m sure that’s how it went. 

PB: Marv kept thinking that town was, you know, always in the pocket of the Docheffs, and there’s some sort of collusion going on in the background, and that, you know, the town was just going to say yes, yes, yes, yes, yes. But they didn’t do that. The town attorney wouldn’t let them do it, and they did everything according to the book, so that it was legal. 

ARCHIVE: The town had a hard-on for Marv Heemeyer. They didn’t stop and think, Marv didn’t have any malice towards us, no, they kept it in their hardened hearts. And said, we’ll get him. For ten years. The people of the town of Granby did not want me there. And the fact that I was making good money by the ’99, within, you know, 8, 7 years after, 6 years after I started that business. But I was making a pretty good income. I’m sure it made them very jealous. I’m sure everything about me made them jealous. I’m sorry that they felt that way. That is a bad way to feel. 

GT: [Remind me, why did Heemeyer go after you guys so aggressively?] ‘Cause our dad was on the town council. 

LT: ‘Cause our dad was on the town council. Family on the land right next to his, down there. 

GT: Yeah, he made a comment– was that in the paper one time?

LT: Yeah, it was, Docheff-Thompson money machine–

GT: Money machine. That they weren’t gonna stop us, like we was all out to get him. 

LT: Yeah. I have no beef with the guy whatsoever. Never talked to the man.

GT: Nobody ever gave me static about running his business down there. 

LT: Nope. It was a year earlier, he threatened us. 

MH: The Thompson brothers were down below my house, one day. 

GT: We’s had pulled up on the job one morning, getting our equipment up.

MH: I drove up to ’em, and had a few words with them…

GT: He said, come here a minute, I want to talk to you guys. 

MH: Basically, what I told them was that your family made some decisions that financially affected my life, for the rest of my life. And I says, well, I says, I’m going to collect.

GT: And that’s all he says, and drove off. 

MH: He had one thing to say. He screamed it at me as I’m about 5 truck lengths away. He screamed, you can suck my dick! I stopped the truck and I laughed out loud, and I told him, I says, that will never happen. 

ID: Two years, he was battling the town of Granby. And like I said, I took Marv fishing, hunting, well, I took him down to Dolphin Island, Alabama, and we went deep-sea fishing. Flew in from Denver to Atlanta, And we rented a car, and on the car ride Marv bi– you know, he complained the whole time about the time of Granby. I took old Al Butt, the antler craft man, he came with us. And he even said, during that vacation, he’s like, Ian– he had never met Marv, he’s like, golly, you know, we’re on vacation, and all this guy does is bitch about the town of Granby and Cody Docheff, and, he, really, even on vacation, you know, you could feel the animosity in Marv, building up. We caught some good fish, now Marv did get seasick as a dog, every day. He would get back to shore, and he’d kiss the shore. But we’re sitting in the gulf of Mexico, and Marv goes, I’m just gonna bulldoze the whole fucking town. Marv held a grudge. 

M: I told him not to do anything. He didn’t listen to me. We’d be on a snowmobile trip or something like that, and it would just come up, and he be mouthing off, and I’d say, Marv, let it go. The good ol’ boys aren’t gonna let you get around them. And he always said, I don’t talk bullshit. If I’m gonna do it, I’m doing it. We almost got in a fistfight because he didn’t understand my thinking. It was just certain things you can’t fight. So don’t even attempt it. You just gotta live with it. And let karma take care of it. And it will. It might take it forever, but karma will take care of your problems. Most of them.

PB: I think it was really over by 2001. That’s when the town finally gave the final approval for the batch plant. And, uh, they could go ahead and build it. 

CF: Marv saw me as the lead guy, if you will, because I’m the one that read the official thing into the records. And, of course, we passed it, and the batch plant came to be. 

RF: And he didn’t come into the store. 

CF: Yeah that was–

RF: After that, he didn’t do business, didn’t speak to us downtown. 

CF: He wouldn’t– yeah. If he saw me, he’d, you know, I’m a scoundrel. 

M: And at that point, there were other fights with Marv. There were junk complaints made. And he’d say, no, that’s not junk, because that’s 350 Chevrolet Block that they only made from this year to this year, or whatever, so it’s not junk. It’s all junk. 

PB: This is incredibly mundane stuff, but they put a water and sewer line into the batch plant that was close enough now to Marv’s property that Marv could could be compelled to hook onto it. 

M: Under state law, if you’re within 400 feet of a sewer line, you have to connect to the sewer line. 

PB: Well, when this sewer line finally came in close enough, they said, ‘You gotta hook on. 

M: ‘Or we’re gonna shut you down.’

PB: Had to pay a fine, had to agree not to use the property.

M: So Marv says, fine. I’m just going to go out of business.

PB: But then he leased the property, the town got mad at him again.

M: Fined him, like $3700.

PB: He had to pay a fine, he got into a little bit of a dispute with the town clerk over the way he wrote his checks. 

DH: He came into my office to change out a check he wrote. But he had written some stuff on– I don’t know if it was ‘Barbarians,’ or whatever. Down below he put– 

M: Bloodsucking bastards, or bloodsuckers, something in the remitter. 

PB: “Cowards and liars’ department” is what it said. 

M: And the bank refused to pass the check. So he got turned back, and then the town said, well, you haven’t paid your fine, so now we’re going to throw you in jail for contempt of court. The bank said, oh no, we didn’t do that because the remitter, we did that because it’s $3700 and that’s not correct, it’s three thousand, seven hundred dollars. Then, at that point, he closes everything down, and he sells the property for about $400,000. 

MH: I had to pay taxes on it, which I did. But I– stuck, you know, $360,000 in my pocket. I didn’t stick it in my pocket. I gave it away. You know, it’s gone. Because now money means nothing to me. I’ve given my house away. My snowmobiles. I’ve given those away this year. Everything is gone. And you know, I’ve thought this for years now. I mean, I wept at times. Trying to understand why this was happening to me. And to do what I had to do to make these people listen was just above me. And when I realized that one day, when I was sitting in a hot tub and I mean I was– I was weeping. A peace came over me that has only come over me a few times before in my life. Where I knew that what I was doing was tough but it was the right thing. And that it was above me. 

It wasn’t me. I was doing this because God wanted me to do it. I said, why did you ask me to do this? Is that why I’ve never been married? So I didn’t have a family? Is that why I’ve always been successful, so that I would realize my reward before doing this task? I believe so. And I’m carrying the cross willingly now. At first, I fought it. But it has to be done. And the world will write stories about how wrong I am, and everything, and without a doubt, I wished it could be done a different way, but there is no way to make this right. So, you know, we’re coming up on that day, when I’m going to do what I have to do. That’s just the way it is. 

ARCHIVE: [Phone dials and rings] 911. Whats your emergency? 

ARCHIVE: Uh this now hard concrete and we need the, uh, sheriff’s department and possibly an ambulance. 

ARCHIVE: Okay, what’s going on? 

ARCHIVE: A bulldozer went crazy or something. 

ARCHIVE: Responder reports concrete. 

JK: They took my call, about 1:30 that afternoon.

ARCHIVE: [Police radio]

JK: Pretty surprising scene upon arrival. And that bulldozer was tearing down that building. Pretty much eating way on the side of the building, to our left here. 

ARCHIVE: It’s a bad situation, guys, he’s armored. We might need SWAT team. 

JK: I radioed to our dispatch to start sending people. 

ARCHIVE: We have an armored, very armored situation…

JK: The owner of the concrete plant came in one of those front end loaders that we saw, and he started striking the side of this bulldozer.

CD: Uh, you gotta protect your building, you know. That’s like, act of war. He’s destroying what I worked for all my life. I spun him around a little bit with the loader. But I had my bucket up in the area, because they told me, hit him high, so I rocked him. Well, I hit him so hard, and I hit my head on that windshield, and that’s the last I knew what happened right there at that moment. 

JK: That’s when the first, uh, gunfire occurred. 

ARCHIVE: We have automatic weapon fire coming from the bulldozer. We have shots fired. 

CD: When I came out of it, about 30 seconds later, they said, he was shooting at the loader, and I was laying over the steering wheel, so I just backed out, and one deputy, he slapped me around a little bit, and he said, are you ok? Yeah, I’m OK. I just wouldn’t quit. I tried getting up on the dozer, on the back end of it. And I couldn’t. He had it all greased up with, uh, white grease, or vaseline. It was all greased up. I kept sliding off of it. What was I going to do when I got up on top, I don’t know. 

ARCHIVE: Stop it!

ARCHIVE: I can’t, he’s got a dozer. 

CD: There was deputies, and the state patrol, and the forest service, and the park service guy, everybody down here with rifles and guns. I don’t know how many thousands of rounds that they fired. He was down here for 45 minutes. 

ARCHIVE: [Shouting over police radio]

JK: When he finally left, there was a police car in his way, and, uh, he literally drove over the top of that police car. And, uh, started towards the town of Granby. 

ARCHIVE: …We need to get everybody out of the Granby town hall…

ID: My bakery overlooked main street Granby. And I had beautiful girls selling my pastries and I normally would be in back, in the kitchen. And I had a young lady working for me named Sheila Rigby. The phone rings, and Sheila answered the phone. And it was her ma on the phone. And she said, hey, there’s this armored vehicle driving up the street. You need to get those kids out of that bakery. And you could hear in her voice, she was not kidding. 

Now my lovely daughters and my lovely wife, at the time, had gone to Denver that day. So my family was safe. So I took my employees to the basement of my house, which was right behind the bakery. Took an old pickup truck I had, and parked in the middle of the street. Like T-boned the street, so, whoever was coming up was either gonna have to slow down or go around my truck. Grabbed my .300 Winchester Magnum, hunkered down behind my woodpile, and waited. And about 2 minutes went by, and I see this police officer running down the street. Then I see a cop car hauling rear down the street. Am I allowed to swear? Hauling ass down the street. I was like, what is going on. And I’m sitting on my woodpile. And all of a sudden the wood on my woodpile started to shake. And this thing that came into my scopes view. It was a work of art. There was no place you could put a bullet. 

ARCHIVE: Describe it for us, because when someone says bulldozer, to us we see a large machine–

ARCHIVE: Think of the biggest bulldozer you’ve ever see in your life with a blade on the front, completely covered up with steel.

PB: It’s a Komatsu D355 Bulldozer.

ARCHIVE: I can see it now. You know what it looks like? A locomotive. He’s got so much stuff on it. 

PB: A layer of steel, 4 to 6 inches of concrete, and another layer of steel. 

ARCHIVE: He’s got a stack on the front for the exhaust to come out.

PB: He had a hatch built into it, he had spots where he’d put cameras, so he could observe things remotely without having to expose himself to any gunfire from the outside.

ARCHIVE: He’s got gun turrets, he’s even got the tracks covered up. 

PB: He put in a special cooling system to keep the engine cool. Because he knew it would be running hot. I mean, he did a lot of intense stuff.

ID: I looked at it in my scope. I left my gun on the woodpile, and I ran down behind my house. And old Marv comes up– and I still didn’t know it was Marv at the time. He comes up to Marv at the time. He comes up to my white truck, goes around it, right up on the curb in front of my bakery, goes around my bakery, and heads on down the street. The next building is the Sky High News. Which was our local newspaper. 

PB: It was a normal workday for me. Suddenly we got a phone call around, uh, I think it was 2:30. And they told us to evacuate our office. And I went out and looked down main street, and I saw the Killdozer pull onto Highway 40, 4 blocks away. [How fast was it moving?] 3 miles an hour. There were police cars on each side of it. And there were sheriff’s deputies kind of trotting along with firearms. I snapped a few photos. It looked kind of like a Darth Vader-ish behemoth from some old science fiction movie, you know. Went back in, and just thought I would watch it trundle by on the highway. 

Just a few minutes later, it took a sharp turn and smashed into the building. The whole building collapsed right around us. And we ran out the back. If I tripped, I’d be dead right now. But I didn’t trip, so. What it did is, it went about 6 feet, and then back out, move over a few feet, then go back in, and just, very methodically, you know, knock down all the outside walls of the building. And somebody said, you better get going, ’cause he’s going further east, towards your house. And my wife was pregnant, and she had, uh, you know, this child there, so I ran over across the railroad tracks, and got a little, sort of, industrial area. And there was a guy in a truck, and I said, will you give me a ride home, and he said, sure. And at that point, the radio was doing a blow by blow description of it. 26:13 

ARCHIVE: Take us through it chronologically, so people get a sense. I know it all started about 3:00 this afternoon…

PB: And one of the people they had on the radio was, uh, a woman who knew Marv.

ARCHIVE: We understand that you are a friend, perhaps, of the man who is inside that bulldozer, is that correct?

ARCHIVE: Yes, that’s correct. 

ARCHIVE: Tell me about this vehicle. Did he actually say he was going to take a bulldozer and armor it? 

ARCHIVE: Well, he didn’t say he was going to armor it. He said, I’m gonna take a bulldozer, and pay them back. 

PB: She was saying things like, Oh, he wouldn’t hurt a flea. 

ARCHIVE: Of course, I thought that he was just kidding. I had no idea that…

PB: He would only hurt people who had hurt him.

ARCHIVE: Several of the buildings that were taken out had to do with this land transaction. 

PB: He’s only trying to hurt the property, not trying to hurt the people. 

ARCHIVE: The people that caused him harm… 

PB: It was very strange. 

ARCHIVE: …And so, then when Marv was trying to develop his property

ARCHIVE: …Would you call 887-3710, that’s the Thompson residence. We think the bulldozer’s headed there, we need to have everybody evacuated out of the Thompson’s residence. 

JK: Turned over here, and there was a small house. It was occupied by a very elderly lady who had a family member who was on the Granby town board. In Heemeyer’s mind, that was a target. 

GT: So we raced home, called ahead and told my mom to get out of the house. She thought I was joking with her. I said, just get in the car, and just get out of town. I said, he’s gone nuts.

LT: He hit the back of the house, then he went around the front of the street and came in to do the front side.

GT: He hit the front of the house twice. 

JK: Heemeyer ran right through the house and completely destroyed it. Nothing left to the house at all. 

GT: [You just watched?] Nothing you can do.

LT: Nothing you can do. You know, you got to stay away. You might get shot and killed. So, you know, what to do you do?

ARCHIVE: Now, firing some shots. [Shots are fired]

ARCHIVE: There goes another shot. They got a really big, high-powered rifle they’re trying to pierce the metal with. 

ARCHIVE: –exactly. Are you across the street? 

ARCHIVE: Yeah, I’m like a half a block away. 

ARCHIVE: Oh, my gosh…

JK: By this time, we had called the road bridge department to see if they had any big equipment we could use. To combat this dozer.

ARCHIVE: We need something else equal or bigger size. 

ARCHIVE: Yeah, we got a scraper at the county shops and we got one down here, if you want to try to box him in. 

ARCHIVE: –I phoned to get ’em up here 10 minutes ago. Let’s go.

ARCHIVE: OK.

JK: The earthmover came down and contested the dozer, right on this hill. 

PB: It’s a great big piece of heavy equipment that’s used to scrape up dirt and move it from one place to another. 

ARCHIVE: So as best as you can tell, police have him surrounded and stopped–

ARCHIVE: Well, let’s see here. 

PB: And Marv won that fight. 

GT: He pushed that thing around like a–

LT: Like a toy.

GT: A tinker toy.

PB: Just pushed it out of the way, and continued back up into town. 

CF: I sent my employees home, and I grabbed my work truck, and Rhonda said, where are we going, and– 

RF: I wanted our family together. Then we up to Silver Creek, up to a house that’s kind of secluded, and on the way up there, we turned on the radio. 

ARCHIVE: We understand some of the targets, um, it appears that he had specific targets, it’s not just building–

CF: I told Rhonda, I said, you know, we’re on that list. And she said, yeah, I know. And she said, do we have insurance? And I said yeah.

RF: I said, did you pay– did you pay the insurance. [Laughs]

CF: Did you pay the insurance. I said yeah, the insurance is paid. So. 

RF: And so by the time that we got to the house–

CF: By then, Channel 4 had gotten up their with their helicopter, you know, airing it live. 

ARCHIVE: He has just again headed westbound into the downtown area, he doesn’t stop for light poles. He doesn’t stop for buildings…

JK: The dozer came up here, and then where Gamble’s Hardware was right here–

PB: Right when he’s out there, you see a big plume of steam. 

JK: The–the dozer wasn’t operating at– at full power. 

ARCHIVE: You can see now, that long stream of, uh, wet pavement there. That’s the radiator apparently took out the hose, or some other part of a radiator.

PB: That’s when the main cooling line burst. 

ARCHIVE: He’s gonna turn around here and make one last stand, and…

RF: You could see the bulldozer heading into our building. 

ARCHIVE: While the radiator’s smoking, while he has any power left, he’s going to attack that Gamble’s appliance store. 

RF: The front of our store was gone, and everybody could see just right through the store. It was unbelievable. Casey about went to the ground. It was– bad

JK: The dozer got hung up– high centered, if you would.

ARCHIVE: Right now the dozer’s at Gamble’s, or what used to be Gamble’s.

JK: It was never considered by law enforcement to all of sudden treat this as as benign situation. You kinda wonder what Act II is gonna look like. We were definitely set up and, uh, prepared for a fight. 

ARCHIVE: We’re going to need crime scene assistance…

JK: And, eventually the machine shut completely off. 

After a period of time, one of the law enforcement officers, uh, said he thought he heard, uh, some, some type of loud noise from the machine itself. 

ARCHIVE: [Shot fired] …We do have a shot inside, everybody hold in position. 

JK: That was his suicide shot. 

[Static over police radio]

LC: The day that he did it, I was driving back with my two little kids, I’m a single mom. We went up above on the hill that was right above where Gamble’s was, and where he was stuck. In Denver or something, they’d have it all blocked off and stuff, but around here, they don’t really do that. 

And so we were right there, and we were looking down on it, and my kids were asking me about it, and I said, no, it’s not Marv, it can’t be Marv, we know Marv. And then they wanted to know, you know, a little more– they wanted to know what happened to him. And they were asking all these questions, well, what’s going on? Is he in there? Is he, are they gonna come and shoot him, are they gonna– what are they gonna do? And I just, well, I obviously didn’t know, so I just told them, I don’t know. But, you know, they had lots of questions I couldn’t answer. 

MR: Soon as I got off work, I went over to Granby, and I was standing up on top of the hill, right above Gamble’s, right behind the county building. And they started doing the blasting to try to blow the door off of it. And, it kept going and doing it. 

And they said, well, if he already did take his own life in there, there’s no way he’s gonna get through this. That was just– I mean. It was just ridiculous, I guess, in some respects. That they would still continue to– on that route. I mean. They knew he couldn’t move. The dozer wasn’t going anywhere. We all knew he shot himself in there anyhow. But that was a pretty somber, sad moment up there. Standing up on top of the hill, looking down. 

SS: Smart man, he wasted. That’s the way I look at it, he just wasted. You know. I was the one that helped spread his ashes. That was terrible. That was my hardest day in my life recently. Yeah. I mean, that was my best friend, man.

MR: We all met at, uh, Elk Creek campground. And, uh, went on this ride. There– I mean, there must have been 30 or 40 people on this ride. 

SS: There was a turnout that wouldn’t quit. That’s what I’m saying. There was plenty of people in this town that loved Marv, and knew that– what Marv was. He’d help you out. Help you do anything. But we took him up on Gravel Mountain, and had a big fire. And spread his ashes up there where he liked to ride. 

MR: I forget who spoke. Somebody– maybe it was his brother.

SS: His brother showed up, and it was the spitting image of Marv. And I just lost it.

MR: And we all took our handfuls of ashes and walked over to this other cliff, and, uh, had something to say, nad threw it off the edge of the mountain up there. 

SS: And, uh, yeah. It was a hard day. 

MR: People were taking ashes and rubbing them on their faces, and on their coats, so he’d be with them whenever they were riding. It was real different. I’d never felt human ashes. They’re weird, I tell you what. Under your fingernails and stuff. It is something else. But, uh, I’ll never forget that. 

[What did you say? To him? When you spread the ashes?] Thank you for everything you’ve done. For me, because still a lot of my best friends are from our group. So, pretty cool dude, for sure. Can’t believe I’m crying so much over it. It was a while ago. [Laughs] So. Yeah, he was a pretty good guy. 

PB: Two and a half hours. 13 buildings. 6 or 7 cars or trucks. Trees, lampposts. 2 scrapers. So he caused a lot of damage. Yeah, I think it’s about $10 million. 

RF: I knew that something bad had happened, but– I was in shock. I didn’t realize how much that this would totally change our lives. And the lives of our children. The thing of it is, is everybody else that got bulldozed were able to get up, and keep running. And we were just had. I mean, it was gone. 

CF: We were simple uninsured. Under– 

RF: Underinsured.

CF: Underinsured. 

We kept running numbers, running numbers. It doesn’t matter if you’re a dollar short or a million dollars short. If you’re short, you’re short. We didn’t– didn’t feel like we could rebuild. 

RF: Was it the next day that they took the bulldozer out of the building?

CF: The whole town had come out to see the removal of this bulldozer. The, the tank felt evil. It– it emitted– to me, an energy. And, uh, I wanted to touch it to see if it was even real. But I didn’t even want to get that close to it. 

ARCHIVE: A monster machine wreaks havoc…

PB: A lot of people know about this event. All the major networks, all the major newspapers were calling up. 

ARCHIVE: He’s encased it in a concrete shell, and an inch of double-plated steel. 

PB: People knew there was this rampage, it was kind of wild and crazy, and it got everybody’s attention. It was front-page news for 2 days, exactly.

ARCHIVE: But then, something no one expects. [Shot fired.]

PB: But then it all stopped because Ronald Reagan died that Saturday. 

ARCHIVE: The Cold War crusader dies at 93. He asked the nation to find within itself–

ARCHIVE: We, the people–

ARCHIVE: —the greatness that he considered his birthright. 

ARCHIVE: —We the people are the driver. The government is the car. 

ARCHIVE: The nation prepares to honor and remember the 40th President of the United States of America. 

ARCHIVE: Government is not the solution to our problem, government is the problem. [Applause]

PB: Ronald Reagan died, and then, suddenly, it wasn’t on the front page anymore, and there was minimal follow up to kind of go into, what really happened?

ARCHIVE: Granby, Colorado…

PB: People, all they knew, that this wild guy went crazy in a bulldozer. It sounded kind of fun and kind of crazy.

ARCHIVE: …This guy must have watched too many World War II movies.

ARCHIVE: Look at this…

PB: Oh, the guy just went crazy and damaged some buildings, isn’t that clever and cute. 

ARCHIVE: You know, imagine him getting up that morning…

ARCHIVE: Go get ’em. 

PB: Within 3 days after the event, suddenly people thought it was a funny, hilarious thing and happens to decide to call it the “Killdozer.”

ARCHIVE: We don’t know anything for a fact. Except that bulldozer kills. 

PB: A really hack, B-level movie that came out in the early ’70s called “Killdozer.”

ARCHIVE: Killdozer. Two men damned as survivors watch an unmanned bulldozer continue its rampage. 

PB: It was about, you know, a dozer that got possessed with the spirit of Martians or something, and it killed people. 

ARCHIVE: It’s coming fast!

PB: And that’s where the name “Killdozer” came from. And it just took off. It kind of started to get its own reality was invented online. The narrative got away from us right away.

ARCHIVE: Local resident and former muffler shop owner had finally had enough of being pushed around.

ARCHIVE: The zoning board, and the local politicians were nothing but slobbering corrupt monkeys doing the bidding of selfish and greedy business. 

ARCHIVE: He bought a massive bulldozer and spent the next year and a half turning this gigantic piece of construction equipment into the most insanely fucking awesome vehicle ever constructed by human hands.

ARCHIVE: He may have gone too far.

ARCHIVE: But the root cause is the unfairness of what he was dealing with.

ARCHIVE: He stood up for what he believed was right, and paid for it with his life.

ARCHIVE: If every U.S. citizen were like Heemeyer, our tyrannical government wouldn’t stand a chance. 

ARCHIVE: We will reclaim this country at all costs. Reclaim the sacred soil that our forefathers conquered, settled, built, died for. Marvin Heemeyer believed that freedom was a cause still worth fighting for. 

PB: All the time, there were letters coming in saying, Marv was a good guy, or, we liked him, or– [So it wasn’t just out of towners and people reading stuff on the internet? It was also–] No, it was locals. 

This is a guy in Winter Park, uh, he says, uh, I have been following your pieces for the last 4 years and I did not agree with some of it. But now you are wrong in regards to Marv Heemeyer. I think Marv deserves a medal. You have to change your government. People– think about the people. It wouldn’t have happened if you did it before. I’m sorry about your building, but I think you should think more about the people you serve, think more democratic. Bren Lindauer of Winter Park. There were many letters in that vein. 

MH: People will say, why did he do that? He had such a good life. He had a better life than me, anyway. Well, I think there’s something you should learn here. When you visit evil upon someone, be assured, it will revisit you. And that is what is happening. It is a good thing. Because I think the community of Granby will be stronger. I think that they will understand, after years, if they ever hear this tape. If they ever hear the truth. 

PB: The truth, in this case, is boring. It’s a lot more exciting to say, yeah, government wronged this poor struggling businessman. They were indifferent to the concerns of Marv Heemeyer. That’s what the government gets for being so indifferent. This is a very common narrative in America. It exists in superhero myths, cowboy stories, we’re fighting back against the corrupt sheriff and the corrupt town. The sort of vigilante getting back at corrupt government that’s oppressing mankind. There’s tons of it out there. I have good friends who to this day, think that the world trade center was actually explosions that took place inside the building, I mean, there’s– that’s a major conspiracy ot there. You can go online, and there are still people out there telling you that Newtown never happened. It was a afke. It was– the government hired actors to go in there, and they did it all to make guns look bad, and that, for that reason, you know, the government is out to get us, they’re all a bunch of liars, you know. A lot of people believe it. 

[Do you think Marv, uh, won?] Yes. I do. In killing himself, he was able to avoid any sort of public examination of what he had done. Let’s say he had not killed himself, and they captured him, and he had to go to trial. Well, going to court and being tried on his charges would have allowed for a real, honest-to-God, public airing of what had happened. Because he killed himself, we didn’t have that opportunity. I think Marv won. 

MR: I think he’s totally justified in what did. Nobody got hurt, except for one officer who stuck his head in the bank, and a brick fell and hit him in the head. I mean, that’s his own fault. You know, I wish more people could do that anymore. Not the way he did it, but the government is not always great to deal with, not always fair to deal with, you know, they expect you to do things on short notice, and they can take your property, your house, and put you in jail, all that kind of stuff. You can’t stand up against them anymore in today’s society. You just have to go with what they tell you to do, pretty much. I think it’s awesome that he stood up against the government.

SS: I don’t think anybody supported his idea of what to do. We understood why he did it. That’s about all we can do. He was gonna take a stand against it. But I told him, you can’t. You can’t fight the government. I don’t care who you are. Donald Trump would have trouble fighting the government. You can’t fight government. You gotta get that through your head. 

But I will say, he went out of his way not to hurt anybody. He went way out of his way not to hurt anybody. He could have just crushed people with that thing, and he– he didn’t. He chose not to. They weren’t the people he was after. He was only focused on the people that did him wrong. He didn’t want to hurt anybody, he just wanted to get their attention. The world’s attention to what is going on in this county. But it didn’t work. So. It was all for naught. 

PB: The narrative started right away, that oh, he wasn’t trying to hurt anybody. But when you openly shoot at somebody with a firearm, you’re trying to kill them. You know, if they were warning shots, why didn’t he just shoot in the air? If I had fallen– he didn’t know if I was sitting at a desk in that building. He could have easily run me over and killed me. We ran a story in the paper right away that talked about all the ways in which Marv clearly had acted extremely aggressively. He had 3 rifles mounted into the shell of the cab. And then, inside, he had 2 or 3 handguns. A .50 caliber rifle pointing out the back, he had a .30 caliber rifle pointing out the front. 

I just knew right then, instinctively, that it was going to be sort of a struggle for some people to accept that Marv was definitely in the wrong, not doing the right thing, and that, from what I could see, he didn’t care if he killed anybody or not. This will be a debate that will go on forever. But I don’t think Marv cared at all if he hurt anybody. 

ID: Everyone needs a social hero. When all is said and done, all we have is stories. And Marv’s story is, he did that whole thing, and he didn’t hurt anybody. But sometimes we get lucky. And I believe Marv got lucky. 

[Do you think there was anything shady about the way the town did it?] Well, if you were Marv, it was shady. If you were Cody Docheff, the sun was shining on you. There’s always a winner, there’s always a loser. Everyone has been wronged– not by the government. But everyone feels wronged in life. But not everyone has the balls to build a tank and bulldoze the town they live in. So, and that’s where the hero aspect comes in from it. Because Marv actually did it. But did he do it for the right reasons? No. 

And I– you know, I was a good friend of Marv’s. But no, Marv did not do that for the right reasons. Marv did that as a blood feud. You know, as a kid, you play sports and some people lose better than other people. Marv didn’t lose well. But he had the means and the skill [laughs] to kick some ass, and that’s what he did. You know, but that’s not saying it was the right thing to do. 

M: I truly believe there’s very, very few things that are ever completely one-sided. Very few things that are completely right and completely wrong. I don’t know that you can say any one person is to blame. Maybe some people are wrong, and– to the the extent they did things. Obviously. But no one’s completely right or completely wrong. The economy set things up to begin with, people trying to make a living, you know, make a batch plant, do business. Cody didn’t do anything illegal. But we’re not in a vacuum. That’s why we have zoning laws. Because, you’re always going to affect your neighbor, no matter what. Well, maybe your neighbor is not willing to accept that. Maybe your neighbor is so extreme, he’s willing to go beyond the pale to deal with it. 

Ultimately, Marv wasn’t injured as badly as what he thought. He could have left. He had close to a million dollars. He could have left. Lived a good life. Conversely, the town is, okay, hooking onto the sewer, et cetera, ultimately, looking back, was it worth it? Obviously not. Just because you have the power, doesn’t mean you have to use it. Just because you feel slighted doesn’t mean you have to do it. 

Nothing ever happens for a single reason. We started the story off– we teach history wrong in high school. This is history. 

MH: But it seems like, this has to happen. Again and again and again in human nature. That, that we kill each other so that the next generation looks at things differently. Who– where they open their mind and be open to other people’s ideas. It’s– it’s a– it’s a cycle. 

HOST: Dan McClelland is an attorney living in Granby and handled Marvin Heemeyer’s estate after he died. 

M: Oftentimes, the problem is that we want to look at things, and we look at them too closely. 

HOST: Cody Docheff is still the owner of Mountain Park Concrete.

CD: That’s like an act of war. He’s destroying what I worked for. 

HOST: Ian Daugherty ran Ian’s Mountain Bakery, in downtown Granby.

ID: I’m not very good at making things. I can cook, and I’m lucky in hunting and fishing. 

HOST: Lori Crane owned the snowmobile dealership in Grand Lake.

LC: It takes a lot to get a snowmobile unstuck.

HOST: Matthew Reed and Stu Spencer were members of Marv’s snowmobile club. 

MR: Kinda tried to date my mom, actually.

SS: Just a regular old, hardworking dude, you know?

HOST: Patrick Brower is the former Editor-in-Chief of the Sky High News, and has written a book called “Killdozer: The True Story of the Colorado Bulldozer Rampage.”

PB: I considered it sort of a professional-slash… just a professional relationship between us.

HOST: Gary and Larry Thompson are still the owners of Thompson and Sons excavating. 

GT: Nothing you can do.

LT: Nothing you can do.

HOST: Casey and Rhonda Farrell still run a smaller version of Gamble’s Hardware shop.

CF: She said, do we have insurance?

RF: Did you pay the insurance? [Laughs]

CF: –Paid the insurance. I said, yeah, the insurance is paid. 

HOST: Jim Kraker was the first responder during the rampage. He’s now chief of police of Granby. 

JK: Not– not a routine call at this point at all.

HOST: Deb Hesse was the town clerk for Granby.

DH: But he had written some stuff on– I don’t know if it was ‘barbarians’ or whatever.

HOST: Marvin Heemeyer ran a muffler shop in Granby, and lived the last 10 years of his life in Grand Lake, Colorado.

MH: So, anyway, this tape’s probably got a lot of emotion in it. And, uh, anybody listening to it, you know, you need to realize that. And just take it from there, you know. Anyway. Hey, I hope you all have a great time and good life, I’ve had a great life. And, uh, it’s Saturday morning, uh, 22nd of May. 2004. And I’m gonna put this tape and tape recorder in a plastic bag, and somebody else can try to figure it out. We’ll see you later.  

[Credits.]

Published on: December 11, 2017

From: Episodes, Season 6

Producers:

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