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Gunman Rampages in Plated Bulldozer

A resident angry over a zoning dispute smashes buildings and fires shots until the vehicle stalls.

June 05, 2004|David Kelly | Times Staff Writer

DENVER — An armed man angry over a local zoning dispute climbed aboard a heavily armored bulldozer Friday and stormed around the mountain town of Granby, smashing through a library, the town hall and the local newspaper office, local officials said.

"He started on the west side of town and methodically began destroying buildings as he made his way east," said Grand County Manager Lurleen Curran.

The bulldozer, which local officials said was driven by Marvin Heemyer, finally stalled out behind a warehouse.

Members of the Grand County Sheriff's Department and Jefferson County SWAT team blocked the bulldozer with heavy equipment. They tried blasting their way into the steel-plated cab of the machine with explosives late Friday, but two explosions failed to penetrate the makeshift armor. It was unknown whether the man was still alive inside the vehicle.

Witnesses said numerous shots had been fired during the incident but there were no reported injuries.

Local officials said Heemyer is in his 50s.

"Right now we are trying to determine what his condition inside the vehicle is," said Colorado State Highway Patrol Maj. Jim Wolfinbarger. "We did fire quite a few shots at the bulldozer."

Authorities said the suspect was armed with a .50-caliber weapon and fired off rounds liberally during the rampage.

The custom-built bulldozer was encased in metal and carried a long steel blade in front that cut a swath through the old town buildings.

"Every inch of it is covered in plating," eyewitness Scott Schaffer told reporters. "Somebody spent months and months and months getting it ready."

The bulldozer flattened light polls, cut gas lines, steamrolled trees and, according to Wolfinbarger, the driver aimed his weapon at stacks of propane tanks.

Colorado Gov. Bill Owens put the National Guard on alert and said he was prepared to send troops to the ski town, 50 miles northwest of Denver, but help was not requested.

Owens later went to Granby and promised state aid in rebuilding, though there is no price tag on the damage yet.

Curran said the attack was the result of a long simmering zoning dispute between Heemyer and a neighbor.

"About two or three years ago there was an issue with a neighbor who wanted to build a concrete plant across the street," Curran said.

"Heemyer opposed it but it was eventually approved," she said. "Evidently, he was aggravated by this and a number of targeted structures belonged to town council members."

She said Heemyer had spent months reinforcing his bulldozer in preparation for the assault which hit six buildings over a course of two hours.

One witness said the bulldozer's driver made five or six attempts to bring down town hall before giving up and turning on the newspaper office instead.

This isn't the first time heavy equipment was used against property in the Rocky Mountains.

In 1998, police shot dead a man in the hamlet of Alma who used a front-end loader to smash the local post office, fire department and town hall.

But Granby, a town of 1,500 residents, isn't used to such drama.

"This is the one place you would never expect this to happen," said resident Judy Craig.

"I feel for this guy but I got really upset when he headed for the propane. I feared for my family," she said. "We live in a time when the whole world is upset and this was one person who just snapped."

Associated Press contributed to this report.

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