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Granby's Bulldozer Rampage Captured The World's Attention. Now It's A Documentary.

Courtesy of Patrick Brower
The bulldozer used in the 2004 rampage.

In June of 2004, Marvin Heemeyer used an armored bulldozer to conduct a rampage in Granby, Colorado. He damaged many buildings, and ended up dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. The incident became known as the "Killdozer rampage." 

A new documentary out this week, called Tread, explores the history of the event.

Patrick Brower joined KUNC’s Colorado Edition with more about that day. He is a Granby resident and the author of Killdozer: The True Story of the Colorado Bulldozer Rampage, and his interviews with local residents served as the basis of the documentary.   

You can find more information about local screenings of the film here

Interview Highlights

These interview highlights have been lightly edited for length and clarity.

Matt Bloom: Tell us about who Marvin Heemeyer was.

Patrick Brower: Marvin Heemeyer was a guy who had moved to Grand Lake. But he opened a muffler repair business in Granby, in 1992, after moving to the county. He immediately got politically involved in issues. He was initially involved in trying to support the effort to bring legalized gambling to Grand Lake. And then shortly thereafter, he got involved in trying to sell property he had bought at auction to his neighbors, the Docheffs. And in the course of trying to get that property sold, he ended up fighting the Docheffs’ effort to build a concrete batch plant right next to his two acre plot in Granby. That fight was very public. It went through the Granby town board. And in the course of that fight, he didn't always get his way. He ended up suing the town and the Docheffs. But he ultimately lost his lawsuit.

Somewhere in that time period he just went over the edge and decided he was going to get back at the town, the Docheffs and anybody he felt had wronged him in the course of this fight.  

What happened on June 4th, 2004? 

Well, he drove his 85-ton armed and armored Komatsu, D355A bulldozer out of a steel shed in Western Granby. He had three rifles mounted on embrasures on the side of the tank. He had remote viewing cameras — five of them — so he could see where he was going, because there were no windows. There were a few sliding steel doors so he could see where he was shooting. And he proceeded to basically attack anyone he thought had done him wrong. 

He fired his 50-caliber at a state trooper, Dave Bitura. He fired at a sergeant in the sheriff's department, Rich Garner. Then he ran over and smashed a new truck just purchased by the sheriff's department. He headed east into town where he proceeded to destroy many other buildings.

And that included a library that had children in it... 

He didn't know who was in or not in the buildings. And the best example of that is the library. The Granby Library was located in the basement of the Granby Town Hall. And only literally probably two minutes before Marv actually smashed into the side of the building and totaled it, five children were evacuated hurriedly out of the building, because they heard that this bulldozer was coming, probably to the town hall.

And you were there in Granby during all of this – what did you see? 

Well, I was the publisher and managing editor of the local newspaper. I had actually been covering all those meetings. I knew Marv back when he started the gambling fight, and then also when he was going to the town to try to fight the Docheffs. I basically saw the whole thing from the very beginning of Marv’s interactions in the community 

This happened in 2004. Has the town of Granby moved on? 

Well, from a physical point of view, yes, most of the buildings have been rebuilt. And most of the newer buildings are a lot better and nicer than the older buildings. So in that sense, you could say Marv helped Granby get a little bit of a facelift.  

But I can promise you that not one of the people that had to go through that, they'd probably just be just as happy to be in their old buildings without all the heartache and loss they went through, to actually do the rebuilding. 

As far as psychologically and mentally, this bulldozer rampage kind of hangs over the town because there's a lot of people that have taken on the cause of Marv as if he was justified in attacking the town and attacking the people. And one of the reasons I wrote my book was to try to point out, well, here's what really happened. And when you see the facts, you kind of see that there's really no justification, ever, for what Marv did.

What do you hope putting this story out in your book, and working with the director of the new documentary, accomplishes for the people of Granby? 

Well, I hope the truth can get out there to the world, so that they have a more balanced picture of what actually happened that day and why it happened. I think it's important to gain a little bit of a sympathetic point of view of Marv. But even when you have a sympathetic point of view, you end up seeing that he made this whole thing into a mountain when really it was just a molehill. 

This interview is part of KUNC’s Colorado Edition for Feb. 19. You can find the full episode here

KUNC's Colorado Edition is a daily look at the stories, news, people and issues important to you. It's a window to the communities along the Colorado Rocky Mountains.