Impervious horrors of a leeward shore (arpad) wrote,
Impervious horrors of a leeward shore

А way to show discontentment with the local politics

GRANBY [USA, Denver area] — A 52-year-old welder nursing a grudge against the town fathers and driving a bulldozer converted into a war machine ripped the heart of this high-country ranching town from its foundations Friday. The man was angry at a zoning decision that allowed the concrete plant to expand around his building instead of buying his land.

The machine had a half-inch steel plate with a layer of concrete, and another steel plate. On the front of the machine, there were two rifles mounted where he could shoot straight ahead.

Among the structures destroyed or heavily damaged in a relentless 90-minute rampage were Granby's town hall and library, a bank, the town's newspaper, an electric cooperative building, Gambles Store, an excavating business and a house owned by the town's former mayor, as well as a concrete plant adjacent to the business of the man believed responsible for the bizarre assault.

Finally the bulldozer got stuck in one of town buildings and police officers found the perpetrator dead inside it.

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Police fired away during the frenzy of destruction, to no avail.

"He's put armored plates all around it and it's impenetrable," said business owner Terri Hertel, her voice trembling as gunfire rattled in the background. "Armor- piercing bullets won't go through it. He's destroying the town of Granby."

All the buildings had a connection to a heated 2000 zoning dispute, which involved the rezoning of land adjacent to the muffler shop of Marvin John Heemeyer, the man authorities identified as responsible for the devastation.

During Heemeyer's nightmarish attack, he shot repeatedly at a number of huge propane tanks at a distributorship with a .50-caliber weapon, authorities said. The apparent attempt to trigger a massive explosion failed.

The episode came to an end about 4:30 p.m. Friday, when Heemeyer's self-styled assault vehicle came to a halt in the attack on Gambles Store and was cornered by emergency responders driving a road grader.

It was not immediately known if Heemeyer was still alive inside the vehicle. Unofficial reports said he had welded the vehicle's door shut.

Jim Holahan, director of emergency services for Grand County, said at one point deputies from the sheriff's special response team were on top of the 53.8-ton Caterpillar D9 Bulldozer, firing at Heemeyer through its jury-rigged viewport.

Remarkably, authorities said, no injuries among townspeople were reported in the incident.

Officials and acquaintances of Heemeyer said his feud dated to his unsuccessful fight in 2000 against the Granby zoning commission's permitting of neighboring property owner Cody Docheff to build a cement batch plant.

Town officials say Heemeyer appealed the decision and even filed suit, but the town prevailed.

On Friday, Heemeyer began his tour of destruction through Granby at the cement plant. Docheff, witnesses said, hopped into a piece of heavy equipment and unsuccessfully tried to battle him to a standstill. Witnesses said they heard gunfire.

Bill Ross, a U.S. Forest Service firefighter who lives in Granby, was heading to get his mail from the post office when he heard what he initially thought was a nail gun firing "pop, pop, pop" at a construction site. He took it more seriously when he heard sirens screaming past him and realized he was hearing shots being fired two blocks away.

"I saw the bulldozer taking down town hall," Ross said. "From a block away, I could see the armor plating. When I saw a tank-looking thing I went home."

Over the years, Heemeyer has tangled with Patrick Brower, editor and publisher of Sky-Hi News, over issues including zoning and gambling.

Brower said he had stayed in the office to try to cover the breaking news story when the bulldozer hit the building.

"It was frightening," said Brower. "I tell you, I was scared for my wife and my son because we live only a fourth of a mile from the newspaper office, and Marv knows where we live. I thought he would drive over there next.

"This is just domestic terrorism is what it is."

Three hours after Heemeyer's spree came to an end, his bulldozer still sat immobile near Gambles, the 50-year-old department store that was the last structure he targeted.

Holahan said about 7:30 p.m. a friend of Heemeyer's was being brought to the scene — although that person's identity, and the reason, was not known.

Granby officials said Heemeyer blamed them for the demise of his muffler shop — which he attributed to the result of the zoning dispute. Most of his targeted building are believed to have been owned by, or associated with, people he believed had wrong him.

Heemeyer had discussed plans for his apocalyptic assault over beer and dinner with several acquaintances in Grand Lake late one afternoon in January.

One of those at the table was Bonnie Brown, owner of a Grand Lake business.

"He was talking about the sale of his business, and how he had to pay too much money for it, and how the town was involved in undercutting him, and would charge him excessive taxes and all these other fees that they had not assessed to other people," said Brown.

"He said, 'By God, I am going to bulldoze those businesses,' the businesses of all the people who'd done this to him," Brown recalled.

About 4 p.m. Friday, Brown found out Heemeyer's threats were not idle fantasies.

"When someone came into my store and said, 'There's a madman with a bulldozer in Granby,' I said 'Oh God, that's Marv!' "

Brown said she never imagined Heemeyer was serious.

Brown said she believed Heemeyer just "snapped" because of recent stresses in his life, including a fire that claimed his garage and a beloved snowmobile inside it.

"He's a teddy bear," Brown said. "He's a real lovable, soft, sweet guy. I didn't think he would hurt them intentionally — but that he would go after their businesses and hurt him financially, the way he thinks they hurt him."

Granby was flooded with assistance from throughout the state as the drama unfolded, including members of the Jefferson County Sheriff's SWAT team and bomb squad.

Larimer County also sent several members of its special weapons and tactics team.

Gov. Bill Owens flew to Granby about 7 p.m. with Mike Beasley, director of the state Department of Local Affairs, to assess the damage.

"It's unbelieveable," Beasley said. "It looks like a tornado has touched down on main street."

Owens spokesman Dan Hopkins said the governor was kept informed of the unfolding situation throughout the afternoon.

Antique dealers, accountants and gun shop owners watched the dreadnaught move through town Friday afternoon, savaging the tiny mountain town's core.

At Duke's Gunsmithing, Shawn Nelson said the rampage started about 3 p.m., when Heemeyer took out Docheff's batch plant, worked his way down Agate Avenue, Granby's main street, slamming into the new bank, Liberty Savings, town hall and the public library. Then, the bullet-proof vehicle headed down the street toward the collectible firearms shop, Western Guncraft.

Nelson said Heemeyer tried to destroy all the businesses owned by town council members that let Cody Docheff put his concrete plant next to Heemeyer's muffler shop.

"Marv didn't think it belonged in the neighborhood. He said it would be bad for the neighborhood," said Nelson.

Nelson said Heemeyer had moved to town about 10 years ago and was angry Docheff won the rezoning fight.

"People knew he was building the armored bulldozer, but they didn't know why he was building it," said Nelson. He said Heemeyer welded one-inch armor plate around the bulldozer.

Nelson claimed Heemeyer tried to extend his path of destruction into a residential area where town council members lived, but was herded back to town by a D-11 bulldozer, larger than Heemeyer's D-9 dozer.

At Western Guncraft, Terri Hertel's experience with the armored bulldozer was too close — and too personal.

"He smashed the aspen trees and lightposts in front of the store," said Hertel, who watched from within with her husband, both terrified. They own Western Guncraft and live next door.

Luckily for the Hertels, who live in back of the antique store, the bulldozer moved down the road to hit the two-story Sky-Hi News, and destroyed the front of the building.

"There's lots of gunfire," she said as it unfolded, watching from her front window. "They're shooting like crazy. He's crushed a police car.

"They're taking out the fire trucks. Police are swarming all over and I don't think they can stop him," she said.

"It's a nightmare. This is the kind of thing that happens in big cities."

Gunshots could be heard in the background along with the live reports from the local radio station. The Hertels had the radio on to find out what was happening.

A few doors away at Schnurr Krieg Certified Accountants, Pat Vigil said,

"I locked the doors and the next thing I saw was this bulldozer demolishing Sky-Hi News."

Granby Town Manager Tom Hale said that the Sky-Hi News had editorialized in support of the town's unanimous zoning decision in 2001 which affected Heemeyer's property.

The propane tanks targeted by Heemeyer were at Independent Gas Company.

Vigil said she lives next door to the newspaper and as she looked out the window, she realized her car had been destroyed by the bulldozer, along with a pickup truck.

As for the destruction at the town hall — a two-level former school building, with the library on the first floor and the town offices on the second — Hale said he was most concerned about salvaging records within the office, but does not yet know whether they can be saved.

The building was most heavily damaged on its west side, beneath Town Manager Hale's office and the town clerk's office, both located on the second floor.

The bulldozer, he said, had flattened six of the town's cars.

Steven Bromberg, a 26-year-resident of Granby said, "The fortunate part is that no one was hurt — and that had to be his plan, too."

Heemeyer had twice called the Grand County manager, Lurline Curran, to see if she could help with the zoning dispute. She told him it was not her jurisdiction.

"He didn't think the concrete batch plant belonged there," Curran said. "Zoning issues can be contentious at times and that's what happened."

"We are a very laid back and beautiful community so this is quite unusual for us," Curran said. "I think our whole community is in shock right now."

Grand County emergency dispatchers used the reverse 911 emergency system to notify as many residents and property owners of the rampage going on in the town, county commissioner James Newberry said.

Friends of Heemeyer believed that he had no immediate family in the Granby-Grand Lake area.

A call to his Grand Lake home Friday afternoon was met by the recording of a man's voice, stating, "I'm sorry, I'm gone. I should be back on the fourth or fifth of June." or 303-892-2742

news article and video ; another article ; CNN article

found by jwz

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