- Historical event
- 18 May 1995
- Shawn Nelson deliberately ran over cars along the road, which fell apart and were crushed like children's toys. It was a M60 Patton tank, weighing 57 tons (like 50 average cars). He also tried to bring down a bridge by ramming into the supports.
On this day 35-year-old Shawn Nelson, a resident of San Diego in California, stole a military tank from the armory of the U.S. National Guard and drove it through the streets of the city destroying everything in its path.
Nelson had serious problems in life: his wife left him, he lost his job, he had a motorcycle accident and his parents died of cancer.
He became psychologically unstable. On this day he drove his Chevrolet in the National Guard armory in San Diego.
The gate to the vehicle yard was open because employees were working overtime that day. He simply walked into the tank yard and opened the tank hatches with and crowbar.
Interestingly, keys were not needed for starting a tank, but it was enough to press the button. He could not start the first two tanks, but was successful with the third.
It was a M60 Patton tank, weighing 57 tons (like 50 average cars) with turbo diesel engine of 750 horsepower. Fortunately, the tank ammunition was in another building, so Nelson could not use the 105 mm gun.
Nelson drove the tank from the armory and went on a ride through the streets of San Diego. He deliberately drove over cars along the road, which fell apart and were crushed like children’s toys.
He easily tore down street poles, and deliberately plowed through a motorized caravan and scattered it across the road.
Police cars followed the tank, but had no way of stopping it. The chase was filmed by a helicopter from the air. Nelson went over a fire hydrant, after which the water started spraying about ten meters in the air.
He also tried to bring down a bridge by ramming into the supports, but he failed. He eventually started towards the highway.
When he tried to cross into the oncoming traffic, the tank was stuck on a concrete blockade in the middle of the highway.
Police officers then climbed on the tank, opened the hatch and ordered Nelson to stop. He did not listen, but continued to try to pull the tank out of the concrete barriers.
At this point one of the officers shot Nelson. He was shot in the shoulder and died at the hospital. The question whether it was necessary to kill Nelson arose later.
It was concluded that if he managed to cross the concrete wall with the tank, he would go into the opposite lane where he would hit many cars with people in them.
Nelson’s brother also concluded that shooting Nelson was justified. Namely, for example, if they threw tear gas into the tank, that might have stopped Nelson but not the tank, and the police would not be able to enter the cabin because of the tear gas.