A Brief History
On May 17, 1995, San Diego, California was the scene of one of the oddest and perhaps the scariest police chase of a stolen vehicle in the annals of motor vehicle theft. Shawn Timothy Nelson, a 35 year old US Army veteran stole a National Guard M-60A3 tank, a 63 ton metal monster boasting a 105mm main gun, two machine guns, a 750 horsepower engine, and as much as 10 inch thick armor.
Nelson’s time in the Army was marred by his “‘multifaceted’ disciplinary problems” which resulted in his discharge. He became a plumber but was better known as an eccentric by his neighbors, being involved in fights and other disturbances and odd activities. He also became an abuser of illegal drugs.
At 6:45 pm on the day later known as the “1995 San Diego Tank Rampage,” Nelson drove onto the National Guard base and broke into a tank, started it up and drove off through the fence. His rampage saw him destroy 40 cars, a bus bench, utility poles, traffic lights, and fire hydrants on a 25 minute drive of destruction. He then got hung up on a concrete traffic divider, which allowed pursuing police to jump aboard the tank and force open a hatch with bolt cutters, then shooting the tank thief to death.
Luckily, no other people were hurt in the bizarre incident, and no motive for the theft and rampage has been determined.
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For more information, please see…
Bondurant, Bob. Bob Bondurant on Police and Pursuit Driving. Motorbooks, 2000.
Hunnicutt, RP. Patton: A History of the American Main Battle Tank. Echo Point Books, 2015.
The featured image in this article, a photograph of an M60A3 main battle tank from the 1st Platoon, 48th Brigade, 108th Armored Division, Georgia National Guard, moving through a recently cleared roadblock during the training exercise Company Team Defense, is in the public domain in the United States because it is a work prepared by an officer or employee of the United States Government as part of that person’s official duties under the terms of Title 17, Chapter 1, Section 105 of the US Code.
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