The Strange Story of Marvin Heemeyer and the Killdozer

A lot can happen in 127 minutes. In June 2004, that was all the time it took for Marvin Heemeyer and his Killdozer to wreak havoc on his small-town community, ending in his self-inflicted demise and destroying 13 buildings. 

Now somewhat of an urban legend, Heemeyer has become the subject of documentaries and books as a nuanced example of how far one man will go to get revenge on the people who wronged him. 

The Killdozer. Photo by Hyoung Chang

Marv and the Muffler Man

The small town of Granby, Colorado, was like many other Rocky Mountain communities. 

Less than 20 miles from the Rocky Mountain National Park, the community enjoyed the business of local tourists, but at its core, Granby was a small blue-collar service town where everyone knew each other. 

Marvin Heemeyer owned an automobile muffler repair shop in the heart of Granby, where he had a reputation for being an expert welder. 

His TV commercials for his shop led him to be known as “Marv the Muffler Man.” 

His skills as a welder were legendary in the community. However, while some describe him as a nice and caring guy, others say he was an “immature nut.” 

Marvin Heemeyer

But his friendly demeanor didn’t extend too far — he frequently got into disputes with Granby Town Council and other small business owners. 

His most contentious argument involved zoning issues with the property that stood between his home and his shop. 

The city had planned to build a concrete plant on the property, cutting off Heemeyer from a cut-through he frequently used to get home from his welding shop. 

Heemeyer furiously petitioned the town to reconsider and appeal the zoning decision that would allow the concrete plant to be built, but they didn’t concede. 

This dispute lasted several years, and during that time, he continued to lash out at the town, other businesses, and anyone he felt had wronged him. Friend and foe both say he was vindictive, no matter the cost. 

That malicious anger led him to his breaking point on June 4. 

Inside the Killdozer

In 2003, Heemeyer sold a part of his property, making about ten times in profit from what he purchased it for. 

He was able to lease back part of the property and walled off about 2,000 square feet, where he began constructing his Killdozer.  

Heemeyer had already owned a Komatsu D355A bulldozer that he intended to use for construction purchases. 

But over a year, Heemeyer spent hours modifying the equipment that would turn into his Killdozer and wreak havoc on Granby’s town and buildings. 

Using his welding expertise, he made the machine impervious to bullets or explosives, adding in makeshift armor plating over a foot thick in some places and mixing Quickcrete to bind pieces of sheet metal together. 

Heemeyer added cameras to the front of the Killdozer, covering them in bullet-proof glass and linking them to a dashboard in the driver’s seat so he could see what was going on during his rampage. 

The machine had three gun ports that allowed him to shoot out while driving, providing a deadly way to shoot out at potential victims who crossed his path. 

In pre-recorded tapes, Heemeyer detailed why he had reached his breaking point. “I hope it’s going to prove to people, that meddling in your neighbors’ business is destructive for the most part. It’s going to come back to haunt you…And it can come back to haunt you in spades. And the only person you have to blame is yourself.”

A Path of Destruction

On Friday, June 4, Heemeyer was ready for his rampage. He took to the streets of Granby with his Killdozer and went first to his former shop, wrecking through the front door of the business around 3 PM. The machine ran right through buildings, flattening them within minutes. 

From town hall to the local newspaper and police office, Heemeyer continued through the community, bulldozing a specific set of properties on which he wanted to exact revenge. 

His path of destruction included a hardware store owned by a man who sued Heemeyer and the local newspaper’s office that wrote editorials about his disputes. 

From flash-bang grenades to firing directly at the Killdozer, state and local police tried everything to stop the behemoth of a machine — but nothing seemed to be working. 

As his rampage continued, emergency dispatchers used a reverse 911 feature to notify residents about the Killdozer’s attack, encouraging them to be alert. 

There were talks of the Governor authorizing the National Guard to launch a missile at the tank, but as those discussions were going on, Heemeyer got his machine stuck. 

This gave authorities a swift way to move in and stop the Killdozer. 

By the time law enforcement opened the steel door of the broken-down machine, Heemeyer was found deceased from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Moreover, the machine was sealed from the inside, indicating that Heemeyer had no plans to get out of the machine. 

The 52-year-old man had caused nearly $7 million in destruction, but luckily, no one else was injured during the 2-hour standoff. 

Martyr or Menace?

As authorities began investigating Heemeyer and his rampage, they discovered three audiotapes giving insight into his motivation. 

“God blessed me in advance for the task that I am about to undertake. It is my duty. God has asked me to do this. It’s a cross that I am going to carry and I’m carrying it in God’s name,” Heeymeyer said in his recordings. 

Authorities also found a handwritten note outlining his targets.

Throughout the year he built and modified his machine, some find it shocking that he was never discovered or caught. 

“It is interesting to observe that I was never caught,” Heemeyer wrote. “This was a part-time project over a one and a half year time period.”

Today, Heemyer has become somewhat of an internet legend. Some see him as an anti-government hero who stood up for what he felt was unfair jurisdiction. 

Others see him as a violent and destructive man who needed mental health help. 

And the fate of the Killdozer? The town destroyed it in 2005 and dispersed the scraps across dozens of scrap yards to prevent Heemeyer’s fans from picking up souvenirs.

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