| SkyHiNews.com

Documentary about Killdozer rampage now on Netflix

The documentary film “TREAD” is now on Netflix.

The film is about Marv Heemeyer and the killdozer rampage that took place in Granby on June 4, 2004. Heemeyer built a homemade tank out of a Komatsu bulldozer and armed it with three rifles and remote viewing cameras. The rampage damaged or destroyed 13 buildings in Granby and resulted in $10 million in damage.

The film uses source material from the book “KILLDOZER: The True Story of the Colorado Bulldozer Rampage,” by Patrick Brower, a Granby resident and former managing editor and publisher of the Grand County newspapers.

The film premiered at the South by South West film Festival in March of 2019 to good reviews. It was released in theatres in early February of 2020 and then on most streaming platforms in early March.

The COVID epidemic cut short many of its full screen showings in March so its appearance on Netflix will offer an opportunity for those who missed the film in theatres.

An intro: Marvin Heemeyer and his bulldozer that destroyed Granby

It was a date that put Granby on the national and international map: June 4, 2004, when Marvin Heemeyer, a disgruntled business owner in Granby, hunkered down into an armor-plated bulldozer and took out multiple buildings in town, ending with his own suicide.

Heemeyer, a local auto muffler shop owner, outraged over the outcome of a zoning dispute, went on a rampage through the town of Granby, driving an armored Komatsu D355A bulldozer with layers of steel and concrete.

Several buildings were damaged in the rampage, including a bank, a hardware store, a concrete company, a utility service center, the town hall, the police department, and a former mayor’s home.

The rampage lasted two hours and seven minutes, ending when the bulldozer got stuck attempting to go through the alleyway of Gambles Hardware Store.

Heemeyer then killed himself with a handgun. No other deaths occurred, but an estimated $7 million in damage was done.

Heemeyer had been feuding with Granby officials, particularly over fines for violating city ordinances and a zoning dispute regarding a concrete batch plant constructed opposite his muffler shop.

AUDIO: Hear from Marvin Heemeyer himself in recorded ‘manifesto’

DISCLAIMER: The content contained on these audio recordings may be sensitive for some listeners. The following contains foul language and disturbing content.

These audio recordings were made by Marvin Heemeyer only a few months before he killed himself after going on a destructive rampage through Granby in an armored bulldozer on June 4, 2004. The recordings were widely considered to be Heemeyer’s unofficial “manifesto.”

HOURS OF HORROR: Former Sky-Hi News editor goes behind-the-scenes of Granby bulldozer rampage in new book, ‘Killdozer’

Long-time Sky-Hi News Editor and Publisher Patrick Brower was hard at work on a bright early June day when sheriff’s deputies suddenly appeared at the newspaper office with news that would shake the nation, and turn the small community of Granby upside down.

Someone was driving an armor-covered bulldozer, slowly, eastwards across town, destroying buildings and businesses as it went. After running west to snap some pictures of the dozer lumbering towards him, and noticing a young man cheering the dozer on, Brower headed back to his office with a somewhat misplaced sense of safety.

The hour of the rough beast had come and it was slouching towards infamy. It was June 4, 2004 and Marvin “Marv” Heemeyer was making history.

Before the dust from the attack had even settled Brower was already trying to make sense of the chaos and over the past decade that desire to better understand something that destroyed businesses, ruined livelihoods, and nearly killed innocent people drove Brower to write book. “Killdozer: The True Story of the Colorado Bulldozer Rampage” was finally published in late November and while it tells the unique story of Heemeyer’s domestic terror attack it also seeks to understand how and why Heemeyer’s became a sort of folk hero to many, not despite but because of his actions.

FURTHER READING: Read the entire accounts of Marvin Heemeyer’s rampage on June 4 and listen to him recording his “manifesto and see a photo gallery of the devastation only on Sky-Hi News.

“My initial motivation was simply to write a book about a wild and crazy event,” Brower said. “But over time it became clear one of the most surprising aspects of it all was how many people, whether they knew the facts of the story or not, on a gut level assumed Marv was somehow wronged by government and society and that he was righteous in fighting back against the town, people and businesses of Granby.”

Killdozer shows the way Heemeyer acquired folk hero status, even amongst locals, before the attack was even over. From a young man cheering Heemeyer on as he watched the destruction unfold, to a woman who called Heemeyer a teddy bear on the radio has he was crushing a community beneath his vengeful treads, to the man who gave Brower a ride to his home that day who told him he had asked for it, as the scraping metal sounds of the killdozer ground away in the background.

Throughout his book Brower weaves the complex narrative and convoluted backstroy that help precipitate the incident, from Heemeyer’s purchase of a small plot of land in Granby at a foreclosure auction in 1992 to a political battle about legalizing gambling in Grand Lake that drew Heemeyer’s ire towards the paper. Brower also works to humanize the man who has since become something of a caricature.

“I did not set out to make Marv look like a demon,” Brower said. “I think people that read it will find it is fairly balanced.”

Brower recounts Heemeyer’s business acumen, his skillful workmanship, and his love of snowmobiling, including an avalanche rescue of a friend, but through it all the same emotional countenance and personality that drove Heemeyer to attack a community he felt slighted by is evident.

“Marv really had no objectively justified reason to do what he did,” Brower said. “He invented this whole conspiracy against him. But there is a gut appeal to the story at a simple telling. People want to believe he was somehow right.”

Photo gallery: Inside the bulldozer’s devastation

When Marvin Heemeyer made the decision June 4, 2004 to plow through Granby, toppling buildings, destroying vehicles then killing himself, he did so with much devastation for the town of Granby and the region.

(Photos from Sky-Hi News and the Grand County Sheriff’s Office.)

Granby ‘happy’ with $500K grant from state in wake of devastation

(Originally published June 24, 2004 in the Sky-Hi News)

The town of Granby has acknowledged receipt of a pledge from Colorado to give the town $500,000 from state grant funds.

During the Granby Board of Trustees meeting Tuesday night Granby Town Manager Tom Hale said the state has sent paper work that allows the town to claim $500,000 promised to the town by Gov. Bill Owens. The money is set to come from the Colorado Department of Local Affairs Energy Impact Fund, which gains its revenues from the federal mineral leasing funds.

The money was promised to the town after state officials saw the damage caused June 4 when Marv Heemeyer went on a rampage in Granby with an armed and armored bulldozer. He drove the bulldozer into many buildings and completely destroyed the Granby Town Hall and the Granby Library.

He also completely destroyed the Granby Gambles building, the home of Thelma Thompson and buildings located at the Mountain Park Concrete operation in western Granby.

The town’s board of trustees gave Hale the authority to respond to the pledge, but more time was spent by the town figuring out how to spend the windfall.

While the town has an insurance policy that pays for the replacement value of the town hall, its insurance doesn’t pay for street or sidewalk repairs caused by the rampage.

Hale said it’s been estimated that the town incurred $60,000 in damages to streets and sidewalks because of the Heemeyer bulldozer rampage in Granby June 4. The board agreed that $60,000 of the $500,000 should be set aside for street and sidewalk repairs.

The remaining funds would probably be directed to pay for costs of buildings replacement above and beyond whatever the insurance would cover, Hale said.

The Grand County Library District received $100,000 from the same fund to help with its efforts to replace the Granby Library, which was also lost in the dozer attack. The library was located in the basement floor of the Granby Town Hall.

Marvin Heemeyer’s pickup found in Omaha, Neb., parking lot

(Originally published June 24, 2004 in the Sky-Hi News)

What was Marvin Heemeyer doing in Omaha, Neb., about 10 days before his June 4 “tank” rampage in Granby, and why did he rent a van from Omaha and leave his own vehicle parked there in a longterm parking lot?

Those are some of the questions that law enforcement officials are trying to answer after Heemeyer’s 2002 GMC Sierra pickup was found parked at an Omaha airport last week. Inside, Omaha police detectives found several items including a weapon, bullets and hand-written notes.

What led authorities to the finding of Heemeyer’s pickup in Omaha was the discovery of a rental car with Nebraska license plates in a metal shed that Heemeyer had rented on the west side of Granby. It was in that shed that Heemeyer had built his “tank” and from which he had launched his June 4 rampage.

Investigators were able to trace the rental car back to the Hertz Rent-A-Car office located near Omaha’s Eppley Airfield. Colorado law enforcement authorities had also asked the Omaha police to search for Heemeyer’s GMC Sierra pickup which they had not been able to locate in either Granby or at his residence in Grand Lake.

According to a June 19 article in the Omaha World-Herald newspaper, Hertz officials searched their own lot for Heemeyer’s vehicle but were unable to find it there. However, they then called the airport security police at nearby Eppley Airfield and asked them to conduct a search of their parking lot for Heemeyer’s pickup

The pickup truck was finally discovered by the Eppley security police in the airfield’s longterm surface parking lot on top of its rental garage. Records showed it may have been parked there since May 27.

After obtaining a search warrant, Omaha police detectives searched Heemeyer’s pickup and found the following items inside: disposable camera, checkbook, hand-written note, four pages from a phone book, Colorado vehicle registration card, one wooden-handled .22-caliber handgun, one .50 caliber bullet, two bags of bullets and five LC 53 bullets.

Heemeyer’s June 4 rampage, which was made in an armed and armored bulldozer that he had secretly fabricated in the metal shed, resulted in 13 buildings damaged or destroyed. Local law enforcement officers did everything they could to stop it, but were unable to do so because of the vehicle’s thick steel-and-concrete protection. The rampage finally ended when the engine of Heemeyer’s “tank” became stuck in the basement of the Gambles store. He was later found dead inside from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.

Gambles rebuild requires some finagling

(Originally published June 24, 2004 in the Sky-Hi News)

The owners of the Granby Gambles Store have a few regulatory hoops to jump through before they can start to rebuild a similar building on their lot in Granby.

Casey and Rhonda Farrell, the owners of the Gambles store that was demolished by Marv Heemeyer in his bulldozer rampage June 4, want to rebuild in the same footprint on their land on Granby’s main street, Agate Avenue.

But to do so the new building would end up in violation of town zoning laws that have been passed since the original building, now completely gone, was built.

While the old building was “grandfathered” in, meaning it could retain its historic use despite new laws, any new building would end up in violation of town codes. The town wants to work with the Farrells so they can rebuild and get around the new zoning restrictions.

Granby Town Manager Tom Hale reported to the Granby Board of Trustees Tuesday night that when more than 50 percent of a building has been demolished, and when it’s rebuilt, it must conform to all new and current codes.

That puts the proposed Gambles replacement store in trouble in two areas: parking requirements and in total area covered on the lot, or its footprint.

The Gambles Store as it existed did not have enough parking to accommodate current codes. And its footprint exceeds that currently allowed.

But there’s a way around these potential problems.

Hale said the town’s goal is to help people affected by the Heemeyer bulldozer attack in any way possible. Therefore, Hale and Mayor Ted Wang said they wanted to get around those regulatory problems.

“I think we could make the case where this is a problem not created by the property owner. This is an outside hardship,” Hale said.

What Hale and Wang had in mind was allowing the new building to be built by getting it through the town’s zoning variance board. That board can grant exceptions to town codes on a case-by-case basis.

But before a variance could be granted, the official request for the new building that would be like the old one had to be turned down. Which the town did Tuesday.

With that done, the administrative process could be started whereby the case can be heard by the town’s zoning variance board where the town trustees hope an exemption would be allowed for the Farrells for the both parking and the building footprints.

Once the action was taken, members of the board of trustees wondered out loud if there wasn’t more flexibility in the town codes that would allow the town to simply modify its code on an emergency basis rather than going through the variance process.

The board instructed town staff to explore that idea.

Mike Rosen: Granby madman no hero

(Originally published June 24, 2004 in the Sky-Hi News)

“Gadflies feel for Granby attacker.”

So proclaimed a recent headline in The Denver Post. To drive home the point, two subheads intoned: “Rage understood” and “Local critics say although they may not agree with his actions, they can empathize with his frustration.” The story’s lead proceeded to paint Marvin Heemeyer as some kind of backwoods folk hero.

I wonder how many of his sympathizers would feel the same way if it were their property bulldozed. Or if one of Heemeyer bullets had succeeded in exploding the propane tanks he fired at, killing their spouse or child in the process.

Personally, I’m pickier about my heroes. I don’t romanticize rampaging, suicidal psychotics. It was only sheer luck that one was killed. Heemeyer’s deranged behavior was only different in degree and no more justified than that of the 9/11 al-Qaeda terrorists or Unabomber Theodore Kaczynski.

When asked, point blank, if they agreed that his actions were unjustified, some Heemeyer apologists resort to the Yeah But Gambit: “Yeah, he was wrong, but…”

A yeah but isn’t really a “yeah,” it’s usually a convoluted “no.”

One such equivocator described Heemeyer as “a man done wrong who done wrong in return.” By this twisted reasoning, the Columbine killer struck a commemorative blow for antisocial, high school misanthropes everywhere. Heemeyer was flat out wrong — period! Our compact with fellow citizens in this constitutional republic includes the understanding that we can’t all have our own way all of the time.

So Heemeyer was irritated and frustrated over some public policy beefs with town officials, businessmen and journalists. My, how unusual. He didn’t like the construction of a concrete plant next to his muffler shop. This is called NIMBY dispute: “Not in my backyard.”

It happens every day.

If it were built in some other place, someone else might have been unhappy. Welcome to life. He fought it through civic channels and lost. His remaining options were to grin and bear it or sell the business. He picked the latter and got $400,000 from a buyer. But that didn’t satisfy him. He wanted revenge. So he committed the remainder of his tortured life to a vendetta against his “enemies,” building a makeshift tank as his instrument of destruction — his own included.

The rest is bizarre and tragic history.

This is not the stuff of historic injustice. It’s not on par with American revolutionaries rebelling against the tyranny of King George, a Civil War fought to end slavery, or the Holocaust. It’s a petty squabble taken to absurd lengths by a madman.

Incidentally, simply because Heemeyer didn’t like the outcome of a dispute to which he was a party, that doesn’t make it, objectively, an injustice. But even if it were, injustices — in one form or another — are an inevitable reality of life. From bad calls in a basketball game, to the boss’s son beating you out of a well-deserved promotion, to zoning decisions.

Two-year-olds throw temper tantrums when they don’t get their way. Rational, civilized adults get on with their lives.

In his defense, Heemeyer empathizers have invoked everything from the arrogance of public officials to meddlesome homeowners associations. I won’t hold my breath for the coming of a society in which arrogance will be forever removed from the manner of public officials and bureaucrats. Government is an imperfect institution populated by imperfect beings. We tolerate it only because it’s better than the alternative: anarchy.

If Heemeyer weren’t the rare, demented exception, every Department of Motor Vehicles office in the country would have been long since bulldozed by irate citizens. If ever a man were treated unjustly by a homeowners association, it was Jerry Seinfeld’s father at the hands of the autocrats who ran the De Boca Vista HOA. But Morty was a mensch — he didn’t armor plate his Cadillac and lay waste to the neighborhood, he rolled with the punches.

We tolerate imperfect homeowners associations’ restrictive covenants and imperious board members because it’s better than the alternative of leaving our next-door neighbor free to raise pigs in his front yard or paint his house shocking pink. Heemeyer was a violent, self-style democracy of one.

Brower: Attacks on town hearing processes are misinformed

(Originally published June 24, 2004 in the Sky-Hi News)

I’m reading and hearing it frequently.

Those who are inclined to sympathize with Marv Heemeyer’s bulldozer rampage in Granby June 4 frequently say or write something like this: ‘The town and the community must have done something really bad to Marv, causing him to go berserk.”

The implication is that Marv was wronged by the town of Granby and treated unfairly. The community of Granby — a repressive gang of “good ol’ boys” — somehow hurt Marv so bad that he went off the deep end.

These statements and comments are being made by people who don’t know what they’re talking about. They’re assuming that the extreme nature of Marv’s rampage was in turn caused by some sort of extreme action in the town.

It’s time to defend the town and the community of Granby in the face of these unfair and uninformed attacks.

When it comes to all the hearings and governmental processes concerning Marv’s opposition to the Docheffs’ concrete batch plant, I was there. I attended every single hearing. I sat through countless hours of deliberation, both in hearings and in open meetings, concerning the batch plant. I read Marv’s lawsuits and the town’s responses. I was there when the batch plant zoning, and finally the plant itself, were OK’d by the town.

I saw how the town of Granby’s board of trustees and many of its citizens, at first, shared many concerns about the batch plant proposal. I saw how the town had trustees and planning commission members who, at first, were essentially on Marv’s side when it came to questioning the concrete plant proposal.

I saw how there were many citizens who showed up to voice their concerns about the concrete plant proposal. I saw how the town’s planning commission and board of trustees listened to their concerns. I saw how the town responded to the concerns of Marv.

I saw the town respond to Marv’s concerns. I believe that because of Marv’s initial opposition, and because of his concerns, the Mountain Park Concrete batch plant actually ended up being a better project.

The truth of the matter is this: The town trustees and the town’s planning commission were actually deferential and considerate of Marv, almost to a fault. That’s because the town knew that Marv was serious about his opposition and that he was litigious. He intimated his intentions to sue early on.

It’s important to remember that Marv wasn’t the only person voicing concerns. Many other people who live near the plant had many concerns. Slowly but surely, however, as the hearing and approval process advanced, the amount of public opposition, other than from Marv, dwindled. It dwindled because people saw that the town and the Docheffs were responding to many of the concerns they voiced. Slowly but surely, many of the reasons for people’s opposition went away.

By the end of the process the Docheffs’ concrete batch plant was a much better project than what was initially proposed. Dust, noise, light traffic and other environmental issues had been confronted and resolved.

By the end, Marv was the lone voice leading the minimal opposition. Marv didn’t stop the plant. But he did push through many improvements to it. But Marv wanted to stop it. In that area, he didn’t get his way. That’s why he thinks he was wronged by the town when in fact the town did listen. The town did treat him well in that entire process.

Then came, much later, concerns about junk and a sewer line. The town warned Marv about the junk and he cleaned up the mess. But when it came to his noncompliance with a sewer line hook-up, Marv never complied. After warnings and after getting a ticket, he flat-out refused to hook on to the sewer line.

Joe Docheff said after all the batch plant hearings, Heeymeyer never even asked the Docheffs if he could hook on to a sewer line on their property. Docheff said they would have let him hook on. He just never asked.

Marv’s steadfast refusal resulted in a court judgement against him, which he must have felt was extreme. But I can assure you that if my business wasn’t hooked up to the sewer, as required by town and sewer district law, I’d be in trouble, too.

The property was finally hooked up to the sewer, but only after Marv sold the property.

Some people assume that “government” somehow kicked a “good” man and overextended its power. From where I was sitting, the opposite was true. The town deferred to Marv, responded to his concerns, and he turned around and sued the town.

To suggest the town board is hungry for power and abuses its perrogative insults the good intentions of our elected board members and appointed planning commission member who serve for little or no money and who take a lot of grief for making tough decisions in what they think is the best public interest.

Our officials served Marv well and he responded by attacking them and the town. That’s how I see it. I was there.

(Patrick Brower is the former editor and publisher of Sky-Hi News.)