WCPO Cincinnati has posted an article and some vintage video clips pertaining to the rather unusual story of New Richmond Ohio resident John Coyne. A self-described “Freedom Fighter for Individual Liberty”, Coyne is a polarizing figure in his community with a long record of conflicts with local law enforcement, ranging from the relatively minor offences of violating zoning ordinances and driving a tank on public roads to the much more serious charge of man-slaughter. Most of Coyne’s disputes with neighbors and law enforcement stemmed from his property which was a junk and salvage yard.
According to Coyne, in 1965 he was arrested for possession of a machine gun. In response to this charge, he decided to up the ante and purchase a Sherman tank, which he kept on his property. The local judge told Coyle that the tank was junk and violated local ordnances. Coyne went to jail for nearly six months until the judge finally accepted his argument that the tank was a historic vehicle and not “junk.” Coyne gained local notoriety for his rather outspoken criticisms of local authorities, including writing messages on his Sherman tank and his WWII era half track denouncing them as “the Southwestern Ohio Gestapo.”
At this point in Coyne’s story, he could be viewed as an eccentric “local character” who was interested in preserving historic military vehicles. However, in 1981 his story takes a much darker turn when he was arrested for shooting three youth that were looting from his junkyard, killing one and injuring the other two. Oddly enough, he was acquitted of killing the one teen, but found guilty of two counts of felonious assault on the two teens he wounded. He spent 17 years in prison, including extra time for a failed escape attempt. During the time, his former wife had his belonging auctioned off to recover 75,000 dollars he owed her as part of their settlement. The Sherman tank sold for $23,000 to a business man named R.J. Corman. After being freed, Coyne went back to his old ways, purchasing a British Scorpion light tank which he still drives around in defiance of local law authorities.
Click here to read a 1976 newspaper editorial about Coyne’s battle with local authorities over his Sherman tank display.
Below are four youtube clips of vintage local news stories of John Coyne as well as a more recent video news piece from 2014. In the video is footage of his Sherman tank and some of his other vehicles. One of the videos notes that Coyne’s Sherman tank appeared in the film “The Blues Brothers.” As far as we can tell, this is probably not correct. An article from the Evansville Courier & Press states that the tank that appears in the movie belonged to Judge Jim Osborne of Vincennes, Ind. However, the article also notes that Osborne said there were several Sherman tanks on set, and that “One guy brought his tank from Ohio and another guy hauled his from Missouri. The deal was that they could paint our tanks however they wanted for the movie, but after shooting was over they had to put them back like they were.” The “guy from Ohio” could very well have been John Coyne. Based on the news video clips, Coyne’s Sherman had an obviously fake looking gun barrel while the Sherman tank in the Blues Brothers film appears to have an original gun barrel. Also, Coyne’s Sherman has the early style narrow gun mantlet, the Blues Brothers tank has the later wider style mantlet. If anyone has more information about the current location of Coyne’s Sherman tank, we would much appreciate it.