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

Lance Maggart |
It was a day of unspeakable devastation, and one that will never be forgotten. On June 4, 2004, a disgruntled Granby business owner hunkered down into an armor-plated bulldozer and took to the town’s streets, causing upwards of $10 million in damage to local buildings. Marvin Heemeyer, a resident of Grand Lake, was behind the controls of the bulldozer, which took out such town staples as the town hall, library and the previous Sky-Hi News office on Agate Avenue. Glen Trainor, who was the Grand County undersheriff at the time of the event — now the chief of the Fraser-Winter Park Police Department — rides atop the bulldozer as it makes it way through downtown Granby. The bulldozer ultimately came to rest beneath Gamble’s Hardware and Appliance, where Heemeyer then took his own life. SKY-HI NEWS FILE PHOTO / JEAN LANDES

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.”

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