• 50 Cal Gun

    A 50 Caliber Gun mounted on dozer.

Heemeyer cites historical shootout to justify rampage

Marv Heemeyer, the builder and driver of the KILLDOZER, knew just enough Grand Lake history to justify and rationalize his attack on Granby, Colorado that destroyed 13 buildings and cost $10 million.

The original shootout is well documented in Robert Black’s book about the pioneer days in Grand County, “Island in the Rockies.” Black’s book gives the best rendition of that infamous shootout that reads like a script from a cowboy Western. It happened in 1883 right along the western shore of Grand Lake.

Heemeyer is right to note in his tapes that the core dispute that precipitated the shooting was over where the county seat in Grand County should be located. It had been in Hot Sulphur Springs until a questioned vote by the electorate had it moved to Grand Lake, which at that time was the most populous part of the county due to that area’s short-lived mining boom. In essence, the pro-Grand Lake contingent got word that the county commissioners meeting in Grand Lake were plotting to have the county seat moved back to Hot Sulphur Springs.

As a result, an ambush occurred as the county commissioners were walking to their meeting on the morning of July 4. Ultimately, all three county commissioners were killed as a result of the shootout. One of the shooters was also killed when one commissioner shot back. As well, one of the wounded shooters managed to escape and no one really knows where he went or even if he survived. Some people tout this as one of the abiding mysteries of the American West.

And, actually, another death can be attributed to the shootout that day. The Grand County sheriff was later found dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound in a Georgetown hotel. People speculated it was because of his involvement in the shooting, either as one of the ambushers or for his complicity in their plot.

All the ambushers, six in total, wore crude masks to shield their identities.

The shootout in Grand Lake ended up giving Grand Lake and all of Grand County a black-eye in the realm of public opinion. Newspapers across the state and nation decried the violence and lawless nature of it. Many consigned Grand County back to the Dark Ages because of it.

Similarly, Marv’s Killdozer rampage resulted in considerable publicity in the region, the United States and World about this violent incident.

Both put Grand County on the map for dubious reasons. And both have become a part of the violent history of the American West.

Here’s what Heemeyer said on April 15, 2004, only eight weeks before he climbed into his bulldozer/tank.

Back in the early 1900s or late 1800s there were four people died up here in Grand Lake over where the county courthouse should be. Should it be in Grand Lake or in Hot Sulphur Springs? I don’t know how many years people remembered that incident but they still talk about it today. What the purpose of all that people dying were I really don’t know. But it seems like this has to happen again and again and again. It is human nature — that we kill each other so that the next generation looks at things differently. Who were they . . . would (they) open their minds and be open to other people’s ideas? It’s a cycle. As best as I can see it, God is saying it’s a cycle, it’s time to happen again.”

It’s fascinating that Marv Heemeyer would go to the lengths of historical precedent in rationalizing and justifying the course of action that he was about to undertake. It’s fascinating, as well, that he would acknowledge that “we kill each other so that the next generation looks at things differently.”

First, he seems to be acknowledging that killing is a part of the God-ordained cycle he’s helping to complete. In this quote it appears that he’s certainly open to the idea of killing in order to teach a lesson to the next generation.

Clearly, the men who participated in the ambush in 1893 were also open to the idea of killing in order to teach the next generation a lesson.

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