The name Marvin Heemeyer may not ring a bell in the minds of many. For the first 52 years of his life, Heemeyer went by his given name. He made a living as a welder and muffler repairman. But early in 2003, something changed, pushing Heemeyer into a new life. A life that would garner him a more ominous (and melodramatic) name familiar to anyone with a YouTube account. And that name was “Killdozer.”

In the years since the Killdozer’s 2004 rampage, websites, social media groups, and online forums have depicted Heemeyer as a blue-collar folk hero, a man who rose up against the wealthy and the powerful, a modern David who built his own Goliath.

These believers tout claims that Heemeyer’s armored rampage claimed no lives because the man sought only retribution against the property of those who had wronged him. But the police tell a very different story. According to law enforcement, it was sheer luck that saved lives during the Killdozer’s rampage, who tore through town in a specially modified bulldozer that destroyed more than a dozen buildings.

Marvin Heemeyer’s Background

Heemeyer was born in 1951 in South Dakota. In the early 1990s, he moved into Grand Lake, Colorado, bought a few acres of land for $42,000 in 1992, and opened his own muffler repair shop.

A photograph of a carefree Marvin Heemeyer after he moved to Grand Lake, Colorado.
A photograph of a carefree Marvin Heemeyer after he moved to Grand Lake, Colorado.

People widely regarded him as a fairly jovial, blue-collar guy, working on the land he had bought to make a living with his own two hands as people in rural Colorado communities tend to do. That is until he ran into a zoning dispute with the town government.

Heemeyer operated his business for ten years on the two-acre patch of land he had purchased. But then, plans were approved to build a massive concrete plant just at the edge of his property. This plan proved a serious issue for Heemeyer, as the only access road to his business crossed directly through the planned concrete factory. This meant neither he nor any customers would have street access to his business.

Killdozer’s Dispute with City Hall

This is where the legend of the Killdozer tends to part ways with reality in some accounts. Those who prefer to paint Heemeyer purely as the wronged party jump directly to the town zoning commission’s 2001 decision to authorize the concrete plant’s construction. Heemeyer appealed that decision, claiming it would block access to his existing business, but his appeal was denied.
Soon after that interaction, Heemeyer was hit with fines totaling around $2,500. The fines were levied for violations, including “junk cars on the property and not being hooked up to the sewer line.” The sewer line infraction was particularly offensive to Heemeyer as he could not access sewer lines without crossing over eight feet of the concrete plant’s property.

This sounds like a small business owner getting muscled out by a town zoning commission and big business (and there may be some truth to that narrative). But Heemeyer also found himself trapped on that two-acre plot of land due to his own lack of foresight and, some could argue, his greed.