Shawn Nelson


Shawn Nelson (1959 – 1995) was a U.S. Army veteran and unemployed plumber who stole an M60 Patton tank from a United States National Guard Armory in San Diego, California and went on a rampage, destroying cars, fire hydrants, and an RV before being shot dead by police. The tank’s weaponry was unloaded, but Nelson led police on a 23-minute, televised chase through the streets of San Diego. The tank had a top speed of just 30 miles per hour, but the 57-ton vehicle easily plowed through road signs, traffic lights, and crushed a van against a recreational vehicle, then plowed through the RV.

Nelson attempted to knock down a bridge by running in to the supports, but gave up after he failed to topple it with the first few hits. He eventually became caught on a concrete median of State Route 163, as he attempted to cross the median into the oncoming traffic. Four police officers climbed onto the tank and were able to open the hatch. The officers ordered Nelson to surrender, but he said nothing and began lurching the tank back and forth in attempt to free it from the median. Officer Paxton’s partner, Richard Piner, leaned in and shot Nelson. The bullet struck Nelson in the shoulder. Nelson later died in the hospital.

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