Most people rely on speed and constant change of direction when trying to evade the police. While it's never a good idea to break the law and then flee, these police chases involving tanks show that heavy armored vehicles really change the dynamics of the chase. After all, officers cannot perform a stop maneuver or use stop levers to disable a tank.
Perhaps the most notorious police chase took place in San Diego in 1995. Shawn Nelson, a US Army veteran, stole an M60 from the National Guard's arsenal, taking him on one hell of a tour of the Southern California city.
Nelson drove the armored tank for 23 minutes as the hapless police tried to keep civilians out of their way. Although he was able to use the 60-ton vehicle to crush around 40 cars, several traffic signals, fire hydrants, a mobile home and a few traffic lights, miraculously no bystanders were injured. At one point during the chase, the tank even hit the support of a footbridge, but Nelson was unable to break it to bring the bridge down.
Ultimately, it was a game-changer that undid Nelson's plan to continue wreaking havoc in San Diego. He tried to cross a flowerbed to go against the oncoming traffic, which could have been a nightmare scenario, but the M60 stuck, like a turtle.
The police climbed into the tank and opened the hatch, guns drawn. After asking Nelson to surrender, they saw the man widen his eyes and regain control of the tank as he desperately tried to free the stolen vehicle. An officer opened fire, fatally wounding Nelson.
Some have tried to portray this story as what happens when soldiers come home and feel useless in a peaceful society. Others have argued that it is a powerful example of the depths of addiction.
Whatever your opinion of what Nelson's violence meant, what we do know from his ex-wife is that he was a successful plumber and all seemed fine for years after he was released from the service.
Then his parents died, first his mother in 1988 and his father in 1992. He allegedly started abusing alcohol and methamphetamines, suffered serious back injuries in a motorcycle accident.
Just before stealing the tank, Nelson's van with all his tools inside was stolen and his utilities were shut down, in addition, the bank started a foreclosure process on his house. You could tell he was at the end of the line.
On the night of June 5, 2018, Virginia National Guard officer Joshua Phillip Yabut made a fateful decision, stealing a nearly 12-ton M577 armored aircraft carrier from Ford Pickett, leading police in a two-hour chase. . He piloted the vehicle down I-95 and entered Richmond, Virginia, where video footage showed police driving ahead to keep civilian vehicles out of harm's way.
Fortunately, the M577 was not equipped with any weaponry at the time. Even so, the heavy tracked vehicle could have caused serious damage and the police were unable to stop its advance. Technically it's not a tank, but it's close enough to be.
Yabut used the M577 to travel 65 miles, finally stopping near Capitol Square in Richmond. The vehicle did not run out of fuel, but instead Yabut just stopped and surrendered to the police. The man was reported to be live-tweeting during the chase, including uploading a video of him driving the tank.
A year later, Yabut was found delusional by mental health experts and was later found not guilty by reason of insanity on charges of unauthorized use of a motor vehicle and breach of terms.
Yabut told a clinical psychologist that he believed he was assigned a secret mission that involved stealing the tank and leading the police on a chase. Remember that excuse the next time you are stopped.
Finally, we have the Killdozer, a vehicle that some would argue was not a tank. However, the Marvin Heemeyer excavator used to wreak absolute havoc in the small town of Granby, Colorado on June 4, 2004 has been modified to be a homemade tank.
An excellent welder, the man spent countless hours welding two layers of half-inch steel plates to heavy machinery with a layer of concrete in between to make the structure stronger and protect it from small arms fire. He had a video monitor and cameras installed to help him see where he was going instead of being exposed through the windshield. And Heemeyer had a score to settle.
The successful owner of the muffler shop was tired of government bureaucracy and the Colorado Rocky Mountain boy mentality. After buying some land at auction, a move that left some powerful people upset, only to get a sewer line for the property became a multi-year court battle. Finally, in complete frustration, the Heemeyer sold the land.
In a recording he made before the famous police chase, Heemeyer said "this is going to prove, I hope it proves to people, that meddling in their neighbors' business is mostly destructive."
At around 3pm, Heemeyer unleashed hell on Granby by first breaking through the wall of the secret workshop where he was building the Killdozer. The man demolished 13 buildings, which included the city hall, the police station, a bank, the former mayor's house, a hardware store and the local newspaper.
The police, of course, tried their best to stop Heemeyer, but their bullets ricocheted uselessly off the Killdozer's steel plates and their patrol cars were no match for the heavy machine.
In addition, the home-made tank had several high-powered rifles mounted behind the firing ports, allowing the driver to shoot at the police and, reportedly, at one of their rivals during the attack. Heemyer was reportedly trying to shoot a few propane tanks at one point, but none exploded, otherwise the loss of life could have been catastrophic.
The commotion lasted 90 minutes, with not only the 13 buildings demolished, but numerous vehicles destroyed as well. However, somehow during the horrible episode, no one was killed. While destroying the hardware store, Killdozer bogged down and Heemeyer was unable to free the homemade tank. When the police climbed into the vehicle, he took his own life. The police took hours to get into the homemade tank.
Some people hail Heemeyer as a hero who stood up to the tyranny of the government. Others think he was a despicable human being. A documentary of its history has been released, as well as a few books, each taking a different angle on what drove the man to build a tank and wreak havoc on the mountain town.