May 17, 1995 - Today was the day that a man named Shawn Nelson stole an M60 Patton Tank and went on a rampage in San Diego, California.
Nelson's life had been on a downward spiral for years. Many of his problems seemed to stem from a motorcycle accident that injured his neck and back. He had also become addicted to methamphetamine.
His friends and neighbors started noticing Nelson's strange behavior. In one instance he began digging a 15-foot hole in his backyard in search of gold. He also became obsessed with suing the hospital that had treated him for his injuries. None of the lawsuits ended in his favor.
Nelson was a plumber by trade, but his tools had been stolen and he had not worked in over a year. With no income and mounting legal bills, the world seemed to be caving in on Nelson. The utility company cut off his power and the bank foreclosed on his house. The final straw may have been the overdose death of his live-in girlfriend.
One week before his tank assault on San Diego, Nelson told a friend that he was thinking of killing himself.
Just before sundown on the day of the attack, Nelson drove to his local National Guard Armory and pried open the hatch of a tank. He actually had to try several tanks before finding one that would start. As Nelson rolled out of the armory a Guardsman called the police.
Thus began a bizarre 23-minute chase through the San Diego rush hour. The 57-ton tank mowed over fire hydrants, street signs and dozens of cars. Nelson even attempted to knock down a bridge by banging into one of its supports, but he gave up after only a few tries.
The tank became mired on a freeway median as Nelson crossed into oncoming traffic. Four policemen climbed onto the tank and opened its hatch with bolt cutters. The men ordered Nelson to stop, but he refused. As the tank lurched back and forth an officer fired a shot into the turret. Nelson was hit and died soon after he was pulled from the tank.
Amazingly, nobody else was hurt.