When good guys with guns fail
Many good guys with guns firing away at a heavily armed rampager in Granby, Colorado failed to stop the violence with their guns.
Why did they fail to stop Marvin Heemeyer during his rampage on June 4, 2004? Because Heemeyer conducted his rampage with a homemade tank that was impregnable to bullets and even explosives.
Heemeyer, in essence, conducted his spree from inside what could be seen as a massive, marauding piece of body armor. Heemeyer’s rampage destroyed 13 buildings and caused $10 million in damage but resulted in no fatalities other than his own suicide.
In the wake of yet another school shooting (this one took place Feb. 14, 2018 in southern Florida at a high school where 17 were killed) there’s been talk yet again about arming teachers as a way to stop or curtail such shootings. But if the shooters are wearing body armor, the effectiveness of such deterrence may be limited.
It’s not clear if Nicholas Cruz, the shooter in the Florida school shooting, was wearing body armor. He was wearing a gas mask. It is clear, however, based on social media postings, that he owned body armor.
Devin Patrick Kelley, who killed 26 people at a First Baptist Church in Texas, was wearing body armor. A shot fired by a bystander after the church shooting made its way around a crease in the armor to wound Kelley before he took his own life after he wrecked his car when fleeing the scene.
James Holmes, who carried out the Aurora theater mass shooting in Colorado that left 12 dead and many more wounded, was wearing body armor when he carried out his shooting rampage.
Omar Mateen, who killed 49 in the Orlanda, Fla. Pulse Nightclub rampage, wasn’t wearing body armor during his spree. But he had tried to purchase body armor prior to that assault on the innocent.
The Killdozer and the futility of guns
It was obvious to Cody Docheff of Granby that using a powerful handgun against the Killdozer tank was going to be futile. As Heemeyer started to plow into Docheff’s business, Mountain Park Concrete, Docheff got his hands on a large-caliber handgun and fired one shot at the 85-ton bulldozer tank. That one shot had absolutely no effect at all on the progress of the dozer and Docheff gave up the gun and ran for his front-end loader, with which he battled the dozer, also to minimal effect.
But weapons fired from the Killdozer certainly did have an impact. After Docheff rammed the Killdozer several times with his loader, Heemeyer opened up with one of his weapons, hitting the bucket of Docheff’s loader many times. (Nine bullet holes were evident in the bucket of the loader after the rampage.) Heemeyer then fired at Colorado State Patrol Trooper Dave Batura with a burst of five rounds from his 50-caliber Barret rifle and shot in the direction of Grand County Sheriff’s Department Sgt. Rich Garner two times.
Police fired back at the Killdozer, but their weapons were useless. They fired at apparent viewing ports, the engine compartment and at the rifle firing embrasures in the tank. Nothing worked.
Even when Grand County Undersherrif Glen Trainor clambered up on top of the Killdozer and fired several clips into apparent weak areas in the armor, there was no obvious effect.
And later, when it was apparent that Heemeyer was using externally mounted cameras shielded by Lexan to guide the Killdozer, bullets fired at those cameras had little impact on the progress of the dozer.
A 50-caliber rifle was even brought in from Kremmling, Colorado. Sgt. Rich Garner fired that large rifle numerous times at the Killdozer. The rounds didn’t pierce the steel and concrete armor on the tank.
Because of the armor, guns were not effective in stopping the rampage.
Guns won’t stop everything
We know from the Killdozer rampage that good guys with guns can’t stop a tank. And when a shooter is clad in body armor, especially in the confusion of a mass shooting at a school or public place, it won’t be so easy to take the shooter down if there happens to be a good guy with a gun hanging around.
Nicholas Cruz in Florida was wearing a gas mask and perhaps a tactical vest.
James Holmes in Aurora not only had body armor on at the time of his shooting rampage but he was also wearing a tactical helmet.
Only a well-aimed head shot or leg shot might have taken down or deterred these shooters.
Would a teacher brandishing a handgun in the chaos of a mass shooting, in danger of exposing himself or herself to deadly fire, be able to fire effectively and accurately at a well-armed and well-armored shooter?
That’s a question to be debated in legislatures and forums across the country as America’s rash of shooting rampages continues.