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  • The M60 Patton tank, over 55 tons of  armor-reinforced American firepower,  

  • meant to go head to head with Soviet tanks  in a winner-take-all battle for Europe.  

  • Yet years after the end of the Cold War, a Patton  tank would wage a different type of battle,  

  • as a deranged man takes an  American tank on a rampage  

  • through San Diego reminiscent of  something out of Grand Theft Auto.

  • It's 6:30 pm on May 17th, 1995, and former US Army  tank driver Shawn Nelson drives his Chevrolet to  

  • the California Army National Guard Armory on  Mesa College Boulevard, directly outside of a  

  • neighborhood of San Diego. The tanks of  the California National Guard are kept in  

  • a constant state of readiness, prepared to deploy  on a moments notice to any battlefield across the  

  • Pacific- or to meet any invader of the US homeland  attempting to land on the California coast.

  • Nelson knows the M60 well, having driven one for  two years during his military service from 1978  

  • to 1980. Stationed in Germany, Nelson was part of  the American advance forces meant to go toe-to-toe  

  • with the Warsaw Pact and hold the line until  reinforcements from the homeland could arrive  

  • in Europe. The Patton was well suited to the taskweighing in at 57 tons when combat-loaded and with  

  • armor up to ten inches thick in places. If there  was any tank that could enter, and survive,  

  • the slugfest that would have been World  War III in Europe, it was the Patton.

  • By the time that Nelson snuck into that  California National Guard armory though,  

  • the M60's glory days were long over, having been  replaced by the much more advanced M1 Abrams.  

  • All existing M60s were slowly phased out  and scrapped, sold to foreign countries,  

  • or handed down to the national guard units  of various states. Thankfully for all,  

  • no M1 Abrams was available that fateful day, or  this tank rampage may have been truly unstoppable.

  • Due to crews working late, the gate to the motor  pool holding several M60s was left wide open,  

  • and yet no one was around as Nelson parked his  car and then jogged over to the waiting tanks.  

  • Trying one, and then a second, Nelson was  unable to start the vehicles- but then he got  

  • lucky on the third one and the  55 ton Patton roared to life.

  • Normally the tank requires a crew of 4 to  operate, and thankfully the ammunition for  

  • either the main gun or the machine guns on the  tank was not loaded and kept in a separate,  

  • locked building. As a one man crew thoughNelson could still drive the vehicle,  

  • and he'd need no guns to cause untold  devastation across an unsuspecting San Diego.

  • By now though a national guardsman has noticed  Nelson, and wisely decides that instead of  

  • trying to stop him alone, he'd call the policeThe operator on the other end is incredulous,  

  • who would have ever thought that a man  would steal a tank from the national guard-  

  • this was after all a time before Grand  Theft Auto. With police notified though,  

  • cruisers were immediately  dispatched in Nelson's direction.

  • Moving at 30 miles an hour, the tank  heads into the San Diego suburbs,  

  • the giant rumbling machine upsetting the  peace and quiet of sleepy neighborhoods.  

  • The astonished civilians are  incredulous as the massive tank  

  • ramps up onto a parked vehicle and crushes  the automobile flat, without losing an ounce  

  • of acceleration. The tank keeps goingramping up on a whole row of parked cars,  

  • pancaking every single one of them and leaving  nothing but flattened glass and steel in its wake.

  • By now the San Diego County Sheriff's  Department, the California Highway Patrol,  

  • and military police are all  pursuing Nelson in his tank,  

  • but all of them have one question in mind: how  in the world do we stop a vehicle designed to  

  • operate on a nuclear battlefield?! While law  enforcement digs for an answer, they also  

  • begin looking into Nelson's past in an attempt  to find a way to stop the rampaging madman.

  • Even during his two years of service  with the US Army in 1978-1980,  

  • Nelson faced multiple disciplinary problemsthough none of which prevented him from being  

  • honorably discharged at the completion  of his two year service contract.  

  • Shortly after returning to the US, Nelson started  a plumbing business and became quite successful,  

  • settling down with his girlfriend, Suzy  Hellman. Eventually the two were married,  

  • and all seemed well for the happy  couple- but dark times were ahead.

  • In 1988, Nelson's mother died, and four  years later his father would die as well.  

  • At around the time of his mother's death,  

  • the grieving Nelson began to experiment with  drugs and alcohol, settling on methamphetamine  

  • as his drug of choice. The normally  helpful and happy Nelson began a slow,  

  • dark descent into drug addiction and depressionhis life falling apart before his eyes.

  • In 1990 Nelson was involved in a motorcycle  accident that left him with serious back  

  • and neck injuries. By now, Nelson's drug  addiction was severely affecting his behavior,  

  • and he attempted to walk out of  the hospital claiming he was not  

  • being treated properly. He went on to filemalpractice suit that was thrown out of court,  

  • though Nelson was forced to repay the over  $6,000 bill his hospital stay had cost him.

  • In pain, Nelson's abuse of alcohol  and methamphetamine only grew worse,  

  • and his wife finally divorced him. With his  business floundering due to his erratic behavior,  

  • the final nail in the coffin for his professional  life as a plumber came when his van and all  

  • his tools were stolen. Then, shortly after his  new girlfriend left him due to his drug usage.

  • Nelson's methamphetamine abuse began  to spiral even more out of control,  

  • and friends were shocked to discover he had  dug a seventeen foot shaft in his backyard.  

  • Nelson claimed that he was digging for gold, and  even filed a claim with the county office stating  

  • his intention to mine the bedrock. Nothing  ever came out of that hole except for dirt.

  • By now the bank was beginning foreclosure hearings  on his home, and Nelson's behavior was spiraling  

  • more and more out of control. Watching the footage  from the Oklahoma City bombings on tv one day,  

  • he remarked to his friend, “Oklahoma was good  stuff”. This would prove to be an ominous warning  

  • of things to come, but nobody took Shawn  Nelson's off-the-cuff comment seriously.

  • Now, San Diego was suffering the  wrath of Shawn Nelson's tank rampage.

  • He drove his tank straight through an  intersection, aiming straight for an  

  • old woman's house. The woman watched frozen in  shock as the tank came straight towards her,  

  • the one-floor house having no chance of stopping  the rampaging machine. Nelson however seemed to  

  • change his mind, and stopped the vehicle, backing  it up and driving it back on the road. He swiped a  

  • minivan with a mother and her teenage daughter  though, destroying the motor and miraculously  

  • leaving the woman and her daughter unharmed. A  few minutes later, Nelson drove his tank straight  

  • through a traffic light, toppling it and causing  it to get stuck on the turret of the vehicle.

  • Now, the methamphetamine fueled madman  turned his sights on the freeway,  

  • where thousands of motorists would  be unable to escape his rampage.

  • The police meanwhile were helpless  to stop Nelson and his tank,  

  • police cruisers forced to follow the tank atdistance, with other cruisers leading the way up  

  • front and hoping to clear the way of people with  their flashing lights and loud sirens. Dumbstruck  

  • bystanders watched the mighty war machine rumble  by, thinking perhaps a movie was being filmed-  

  • until the tank would obliterate parked vehicles  in its path. This was no movie, it was real life,  

  • and though nobody had been hurt or killed yetif that tank got on the freeway the casualties  

  • could be immense- especially if it caught up  with rush hour traffic trapped in a standstill.

  • The tank climbed an on-ramp, the police cruisers  still on its tail. Luckily the freeway was  

  • relatively free of traffic along this stretch of  San Diego, but closer to downtown was rush hour  

  • traffic, practically caught in a standstill. If  Nelson reached them, drivers would be trapped in  

  • their vehicles as the giant tank simply rolled  straight over them and crushed them to death.

  • Vehicles managed to easily avoid the giant  tank, moving at only thirty miles per hour,  

  • and Nelson was growing frustratedHe had no plan or agenda, merely to  

  • cause as much mayhem as possible  before the tank's fuel ran out.  

  • But here on the freeway he couldn't catch  up to the flow of traffic quickly enough,  

  • and then he decided on a plan. Nelson would smash  through the concrete divider of the freeway to  

  • continue his rampage on the other side, where the  speeding vehicles would be coming straight at him.

  • With a lurch, the 55 ton tank rumbled towards the  concrete divider, smashing it to pieces as its  

  • front collided with the rebar-reinforced concreteThis divider was designed to withstand the force  

  • of a tractor-trailer going sixty miles per hourbut it shattered on contact with the steel war  

  • machine. Incredibly though, the shattered concrete  managed to wedge the tank's treads in an awkward  

  • position, momentarily stopping the lumbering  behemoth. Unable to gain traction, the tank  

  • struggled to continue its movement, and Nelson  began jerking it back and forth trying to free it.

  • If he got free, nothing the police could  do would be able to stop the tank from  

  • threatening oncoming traffic. With drivers  completely unaware of what was ahead of them,  

  • they would be running straight at the steel  war machine at fifty or sixty miles an hour,  

  • only to be immediately flattened and  crushed to death. A call had already  

  • been placed with a local Marine reserve  unit for a Cobra attack helicopter,  

  • but it would take time for the chopper, which  was kept in storage and not ready for operations,  

  • to be fueled, prepped for flight, and armed  with an air-launched tank killer missile.

  • With the tank stuck, four police  officers knew that if they were going  

  • to save countless lives, they needed to act now.

  • Four police officers rushed out of their  own vehicles and bravely climbed atop the  

  • bucking and heaving war machine. One slip or  one jerk of the big machine would see them  

  • hurled from the tank and crushed to deathStill, the officers continued their climb,  

  • and luckily for all involved one of themMarine Corp reservist Gunnery Sergeant  

  • Paul Patton, was a fellow tanker and  knew how to open the vehicle's hatch.

  • Aiming his weapon down into the tankPatton ordered Nelson to shut off the  

  • machine and climb out, but Nelson ignored  him and continued to gun the engine. The  

  • tank was nearly free, there was little  time to act- and so Patton fired once,  

  • hitting Nelson in the shoulder fromdownward trajectory. The bullet pierced  

  • into Nelson's chest cavity and caused massive  bleeding- but the tank was at last silent.

  • The four officers immediately pulled Nelson out of  the tank and began first aid. Luckily an ambulance  

  • had been following the rampage closely, ready  to respond to any wounded by Nelson's erratic  

  • tank driving. Within minutes Nelson was placed  in an ambulance and rushed to a nearby hospital,  

  • where lifesaving surgery was attempted. Ultimately, Nelson would die of his injury,  

  • and while the police were criticized for  not using other means to subdue Nelson,  

  • most people agree that there was no realistic  option for stopping Nelson's rampage that  

  • wouldn't have further endangered livesIf he had managed to get the tank unstuck,  

  • Nelson could've wreaked havoc in oncoming  traffic, killing who knows how many people.

  • In the years since his death Nelson  was glorified as a folk hero of sorts,  

  • taking out his frustration at a broken  system on the society that let him down.  

  • However, Nelson's own brother and former  wife both have said that Nelson was not a  

  • hero with an agenda, he was simply an out  of control drug addict and nothing more.

  • Now watch our video on another deranged madmanKilldozer, or click this other video instead!

The M60 Patton tank, over 55 tons of  armor-reinforced American firepower,  

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B2 nelson tank patton rampage san diego diego

True Story of Man Who Stole a Tank and Went on an Insane Highway Rampage

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    林宜悉 posted on 2020/11/06
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