- A simple working class man’s rampage over a zoning dispute.
- Rammed with a customized armored bulldozer through the wall of his former business, the concrete plant, the Town Hall, the office of the local newspaper.
Sit tight as l take you on a short ride down history lane. This is an uncommon story, it is similar to the Nursery Solomon Gandhi rhyme, yet it is the story of the lifetime of a man.
Born on October 28, 1951 and died on June 4, 2004, Marvin John Heemeyer was an American welder and an automobile muffler repair shop owner who was liked by a few, loved by kins but berated by many.
Marvin lived in Grand Lake, Colorado, about 16 miles (26 km) away from Granby in his early days before moving to town more than 10 years before his death. Heemeyer had no relatives in the Granby–Grand Lake area.
He never married neither did he had any kids. He was a man all by himself with very few friends and no association. Confident in his enviable welding skills and competence, Heemeyer managed his ruffle shop with jealousy and pride.
His profession captions the whole of his existence – welding was all you could know about this man. He was leaving satisfactorily and quietly by himself.
Aside his welding undertakings, no achievement nor attainment was documented or credited to John. The curiosity which however pops up is; “what could have influenced his mode of death”. Who could have thought a man that lived quietly all by himself with no affiliation will be embroiled in any gun related occurrence.
Surprisingly, he died by a self inflicted gun shot. What ensured this ironic reality? In 1992, Heemeyer laid the foundation for a new experience that deflected his previous life process and created a new story that overshadowed his former life by procuring a land with the aim of expanding his business.
He bought 2 acres (0.81 hectares) of land from the Resolution Trust Corporation, the federal agency organized to handle the assets of failed savings and loan institutions. He bought the land for $42,000 to build a muffler shop and subsequently agreed to sell the land to Mountain Park Concrete to build a concrete batch plant. The agreed price was $250,000 but, according to a witness, Heemeyer changed his mind and increased the price to $375,000 and later demanded a deal worth approximately $1 million – a sudden greed that made the deal unsuccessful. It was believed the negotiation happened before the rezoning proposal was heard by the town council.
In 2001, in reference to the zoning ordinance, the zoning commission and the town’s trustees approved the construction of a concrete batch plant which was opposite his Heemeyer’s shop. Heemeyer appealed the decisions unsuccessfully for many years, he had used the adjacent property as a way to get to his muffler shop. The plan for the concrete plant was sure to block that access. In addition to the frustration engendered by this dispute over access, Heemeyer was fined $2,500 by the Granby government for various violations, including “junk cars on the property and not being hooked up to the sewer line”. He had also bought a bulldozer two years before the incident, with the intention of using it to build an alternative route to his muffler shop, but city officials rejected his request to build it.
The last straw he could pull was to petition the city with his neighbors and friends, but to no avail. He could not function without the sewer line and the cooperation of the town. He became a lone ranger. His world was taken away from him he thought. Heemeyer angrily leased his business to a trash company and sold the property to embark on his resolved way forward which was a revenge mission.
Heemeyer proceeded on the calculative revenge mission that took him almost two years to actualize by modifying his bulldozer, this was confirmed by the letter uncovered in his yard after his demise believed to have been written by him. These notes indicated that he held grudges over the zoning approval. “I was always willing to be reasonable until I had to be unreasonable”, he wrote. “Sometimes reasonable men must do unreasonable things.” He also wrote; “It is interesting to observe that I was never caught. This was a part-time project over a 1½ year time period.” Clearly he was surprised that several men, who had visited the shed late the previous year, had not noticed the modified bulldozer “…especially with the 2000-pound lift fully exposed”. “Somehow their vision was clouded”, he wrote.
Heemeyer modified his bulldozer with necessary jaw-dropping features to ensure his proposed mission. On June 4, 2004, Heemeyer drove his armored bulldozer through the wall of his former business, the concrete plant, the Town Hall, the office of the local newspaper that editorialized against him, the home of a former judge’s widow, and a hardware store owned by another man Heemeyer named in a lawsuit, as well as others. Owners of all the buildings that were damaged had some connection to Heemeyer’s disputes.
The rampage lasted 2 hours 7 minutes, destroying 13 buildings, knocking out natural gas service to City Hall and the concrete plant, and damaging a truck and part of a utility service center.
Despite the great damage to property, no one besides Heemeyer was killed, much credit to the emergency staffs who were nimble at alerting residents of the affected buildings and property owners of the beckoning rampage due to the resistance of the bulldozer to firearms.. The rampage stopped as the bulldozer got stucked in a gamble hardware store where Heemeyer shot himself before authorities could get to him. The cost of the damage was estimated at $7 million. At 2:00am in the early hours of the following morning, Heemeyer’s body was recovered after tireless effort of the responding officers to cut through the steel plated bulldozer.
It turned out after all that his previous quiet life was a sham. The feud with the city council exposed the contents of his earth. He was a crafty welder but a monster within. He lived a regrettable life. He died leaving an unwanted history behind.
What a mission… What a man… What a life.