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Other rampages, film may have influenced Heemeyer

Where did Marv Heemeyer get the idea for his bulldozer-tank?

He never states in his tapes or writings where he got the idea for the tank or the rampage itself.  And yet, there were several incidents that took place in the 1990s, and one in 1981, that might have planted the seed. One incident wasn’t so far away from Granby.

Rampage in Alma, Colorado

In Alma, Colorado, another mountain town 70 miles southwest of Granby, a similar event took place in 1998. On Feb. 28, Thomas Dean Leask, 50, went on a four-hour rampage during which he shot and killed the former mayor of the town. At the time of his murder the mayor was presiding over an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. Leask then stole a front-end loader that was owned by the town. He used it to ram the Alma town hall, the post office, the water treatment plant and the fire station on his way home. He then set his house on fire and fled into the nearby forest, where he was eventually surrounded and arrested by Park County Sheriff’s Deputies.

He confessed to the slaying and the rampage.

Like Heemeyer, he was disgruntled with government. And, like Heemeyer, part of his beef with government centered around water line connections and tap fees. Reporting in the Rocky Mountain News explains that Leask was still angry at the time of his rampage for being forced to pay a local water department tap fee several years before. Others in the town said he was an anarchist.

The Leask rampage in Alma bears the most similarity to Heemeyer’s rampage in Granby. It was over a dispute relating to water tap fees and connections. He was angry at government because of that. And yet in Leask’s rampage he killed a man (Heemeyer killed no one other than himself) and Leask was apprehended after the event and put in jail.

The San Diego Rampage

Then there’s the case of the man who went on a rampage in an Army tank he stole in San Diego, California.  Shawn Nelson was a U.S Army veteran and unemployed plumber who stole an M60 Patton tank from a U.S. National Guard Armory in San Diego.  During his rampage on May 17, 1995, he destroyed cars, fire hydrants, and an RV before being killed by police. News articles don’t mention any particular anti-government sentiments expressed by Nelson.  Instead, his problems centered around a botched back surgery, drug use, a theft which hurt his business and a foreclosure on his house.

The Wyoming Rampage

Gillette, Wyoming was the setting for another bulldozer rampage on May 1, 1981. In the early hours of the morning, a 24-year-old man named John D. Thompson started up a D-9 Caterpillar bulldozer that had been parked in the town. Thompson drove the bulldozer through the streets of the town, smashing cars, knocking over power lines and ripping up pavement.  Police were called in to stop the rampage, but they did not shoot the man because he only damaged property. Police also feared that over-shots or ricochets could hit innocent town residents in the area. Thompson finally jumped from the machine and ran off, leaving it running. It slammed, driverless, into an apartment building and stopped after a police officer fired into the engine. It finally stalled. It was estimated it caused $3 million in damage, according to statements in the Gillette News-Record.

News reports about the incident don’t disclose whether the driver of that dozer had any particular beefs with the town or local government. Some speculate it was merely a crime of opportunity and that perhaps the dozer driver went on a “joy-ride.”

The Film “Tank”

Nelson, the tank thief in San Diego, and Heemeyer, could have gained some inspiration from a film that was released in 1984. The movie, “Tank,” starred James Garner. He plays the role of an Army Sergeant Major transferred to a base next to a small Georgia town. After his son is sent to jail on false charges by a corrupt small-town police force, Garner steals a tank from his military base.  He then goes on a rampage to free his son.  During the incident, Garner gets back at the local police force by taking revenge on buildings and cars, blowing them up or running them over. It is eerily reminiscent of some of Heemeyer’s actions.  Although there’s no way to know if Heemeyer ever saw the film, the parallels are familiar.

There’s no way to know for sure where Heemeyer got his inspiration and idea for his rampage.

And yet, I received information from an anonymous source that compared Heemeyer’s design to Israeli bulldozers that destroy Palestinian settlements. These machines use a similar layered steel and concrete design to protect the drivers as they target homes of illegal squatters.

Once again, there’s no way to know if Heemeyer used those designs for his tanks.  No drawings were found to corroborate that theory, and Heemeyer never mentioned his inspiration for the design of the Killdozer.  At the same time, there is no denying that the blueprints for another rampage are out there!

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