Killdozer attack foretold current media pipe bomb attacks at CNN
New media attacks in America bring to mind the time our newspaper was attacked by the Killdozer here in Granby, Colorado 14 years ago.
The new media attack, of course, is the pipe bomb mailed to CNN, probably by Cesar Sayoc, an extreme Trump supporter from Florida. The pipe bomb mailed to CNN was one of many he mailed to perceived “enemies” of President Donald Trump.
The pipe bomb attack on CNN has echoes of the violent attack on the “media” last June in Annapolis, Md. There, five people were shot to death by a disgruntled reader.
I am hoping in my heart of hearts that this trend of attacking the “media” won’t continue, but with our president proclaiming after these attacks that the “real enemy of the people” is the media, well . . . there are a lot of crazies with guns, bombs and armor out there in America.
Reporters, editors, broadcasters and bloggers may increasingly feel that they are walking around out there with targets on their backs.
Attack by an armed and armored bulldozer
A little more than 14 years ago a virtual target was on the newspaper building where I worked. The bulldozer rampage in Granby left 13 buildings destroyed, causing $10 million in damage. One of the buildings completely destroyed was the Sky-Hi News, where I worked as the publisher and managing editor.
Our staff had learned on that June day in 2004 that “some guy’s gone crazy in a bulldozer, destroying the town,” so I decided to stay in the office with another editor so we could cover this bizarre event. There we were, standing in the newspaper office on Granby’s main street as the ominous-looking bulldozer-tank approached, flanked on three sides by police vehicles.
When the dozer neared our offices, it took a sharp right turn and slammed into the front of the building, sending the 18-foot-high walls crumbling to the ground like shattered glass. We were showered by dust and debris as we turned and ran out of the building. We knew that we could have been killed.
The sound of the bulldozer’s engine and the screech of the steel treads was overwhelming. The walls were literally crumbling around us as the Killdozer (as I call it in my book) slammed again and again into the front of our building.
Once outside I snapped a panicked photo of a sheriff’s deputy armed with a shotgun as he watched the bulldozer-tank slam into the building. The shots from his shotgun had no effect at all on the extremely well-fortified tank. Then I heard the loud pop of a rifle and the zing of a ricocheting bullet nearby. It wasn’t a shot fired from one of the guns in the Killdozer but a shot fired by one of the many police who were trying to stop the machine. I turned tail and ran home as fast as my feet could carry me.
The driver of the Killdozer, Marv Heemeyer, managed to destroy many other buildings that day. He fired his guns at a perceived enemy and at law enforcement personnel. He even tried to blow up the town by shooting his .50-caliber rifle at massive propane storage tanks near a neighborhood and senior housing complex in eastern Granby. Luckily, he missed.
Conspiracy theory and revenge motivated his attack
And yet the main thought on my mind that day centered around my work as a journalist and why he had attacked the newspaper. What had we written that made him so angry? What had we done at the newspaper that would prompt such a vicious attack? What had we done? Notably, he had also attacked and destroyed the Granby Town Hall and the town library. He also severely damaged the building of the local electrical co-op and several other businesses. He was after town institutions that he felt had wronged him.
In the course of writing my book “KILLDOZER: The True Story of the Colorado Bulldozer Rampage,” I came to realize that Heemeyer had decided he was going to attack the town and its “establishment” because he felt there was a conspiracy against him and that he had been wronged by a corrupt government and a back-stabbing local populace. But in reality the town had bent over backwards to be fair to Heemeyer, he just didn’t get his way in town deliberations. I know this because I personally covered the three years of town meetings over Heemeyer’s grievances. I also knew Heemeyer and interviewed him many times. I also edited, with him present, his many letters to the editor.
He was also angry over his failure to sell his property at inflated properties to his neighbors. And he felt humiliated by losing his battles against his neighbors in the public eye. The newspaper covered extensively (and fairly, I believe) his fight against a proposed batch plant next door to his muffler shop. But as he revealed in tapes he left behind, he disliked me and the newspaper because we had disagreed over an attempt he backed to bring legalized gambling to Grand Lake way back in 1992. Those disagreements were displayed in our opinion pages.
Fake news, false narratives and conspiracies motivate these attacks
I feel that Heemeyer’s attack on the newspaper and local government foretold the current anti-government and anti-media tone that persists in America today, fueled by angry tweets about the main stream media and a general unjustified paranoia about government bolstered by speculative claims about the so-called “dark state.”
Heemeyer’s paranoia about government and the media pushed him to the point where he felt justified in lashing out like a vigilante, taking the law into his own hands.
Is it only a coincidence a prominent right wing blogger and one-time Breitbart News editor wrote the following only a few days before the Maryland killings: “I can’t wait for the vigilante squads to start gunning journalists down on sight?”
Is it only a coincidence that Trump continues to state that the main stream media is the “true” enemy of the people?”
This is the tone of the society in which we live today, where government is despised and the media is attacked based on false notions of the truth and outlandish conspiracy theories. It was all foretold, perhaps, in little Granby 14 years ago when Marv Heemeyer attacked the town with guns and a tank. Based on bogus blogs and social media posts pushing a false narrative, Heemeyer is now known to many as “the last great American folk hero.”
I can only hope that this anti-media and anti-governmental trend in our country fades away as a mere fad reflective of our overly partisan times guided by false narratives and outlandish conspiracy theories.
Newspapers and “main stream” broadcasters are attacked because they generally do a good job of communicating the truth.
And sadly, the truth itself, these days, is under attack.