The San Diego Tank Guy Documentary

Wednesday, September 15, 2004, 4:45 —by Joe Crawford
This item was posted in San Diego History, San Diego News and Local Media category and has 2 Comments so far.

Last night KPBS TV showed a documentary called “Cul du Sac: A Suburban War Story.” Made in 2002, it talks about the infamous “guy who stole a tank and ended up shot dead by the San Diego police.”

It was an odd documentary. On the one hand it was about the story of Shawn Nelson, a plumber who lost it one day and hijacked a tank. It’s all about Clairemont, a community of San Diego that boomed in the post-WWII era with suburbia. The documentary almost, but not quite, ties together the threads of postwar propsperity, methamphetamine use by bomber pilots, the aerospace industry, Convair, General Dynamics, The Korean War, Clairemont, San Diego, tract homes, the decline of industrial work and the middle class, and the sad tale of Mr. Nelson. He was up to some strange stuff. elson has started a mineshaft in his backyard — mining for gold, ostensibly, in a tweeking-induced mania. He was also drinking and was having trouble paying his bills.

The interviews with his friends and neighbors are hard to watch. Several of them appear to be under the influence of speed while they’re talking. They talk about conspiracies, mind control, and how Shawn was such a good guy, a decent guy. It was moving and troubling seeing people in this state. Even worse was the guy’s brother, who said that he wished he might have liked to have done the tank joyride thing. Even the cop they interview seems to indicate it would be a fun thing to hijack a tank.

As a documentary about San Diego, it’s worth a look. The Film Threat Review of the film is pretty on-target. It describes the unevenness of the material, but admits that the story is a fascinating one.

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2 Responses to “The San Diego Tank Guy Documentary”

  1. PBite said on Wednesday, September 15, 2004, 10:46

    Cool post, but next time try and tell us about these programs before they air!

  2. Juanita Gorgoña said on Sunday, May 6, 2007, 12:49

    This was by Mesa College where there is crime and the police should have checked instead of assuming that it was an incident.

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