2 tiny pieces of metal debris helped investigators identify Nashville bombing suspect

Mid-South

Debris is scattered near the scene of an explosion in downtown Nashville, Tenn., Friday, Dec. 25, 2020. Buildings shook in the immediate area and beyond after a loud boom was heard early Christmas morning. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Christmas Day the Tennessee Highway Patrol was thrust into a complicated crime scene tasked with finding answers.

“That was a terrible day for everybody. Nobody knew what was happening,” THP Major Roy Brown said.

Four investigators, including three from THP’s Criminal Investigation Division, descended upon the damage with a sole picture of an RV in mind and the goal of figuring out who owned it.

“The parts that contain the full VIN (vehicle identification number) had been destroyed. We started looking for component parts that could possibly contain a derivative serial number for the vehicle,” Brown explained. “A derivative number is five numbers, and they’re about six millimeters in height. It’s really, really, small. Maybe a quarter-inch.”

Amazingly, within hours, the team identified what would appear to the untrained eye as two tiny pieces of melted debris covered in soot. But the experts knew, a partial VIN number was hiding inside.

“The FBI has a process where they can go in and start rubbing [the top layers] off and seeing the residual of that number to help us identify it.”

A key clue was revealed.

“They contacted the National Insurance Crime Bureau who maintains records from manufactures. They were able to reconstruct a VIN number for that vehicle,” Brown said.

That lead to the owner, 63-year-old Anthony Quinn Warner.

“When you take that piece of information,” Major Brown says, “and you couple it with the investigative efforts of Metro, the FBI, and ATF, all of the other agencies that participated in this investigation, it starts to paint that picture.”

A picture that became clear so quickly thanks in part, Brown says, to the humility shown by newly named Metro Police Chief, John Drake.

“Chief Drake asking for help, that’s hard to do. I know, I’ve been on scenes. He was definitely the right hire.”

This also helped set the tone for everyone involved turning the investigation into, “a collaborative effort between the community, the media, law enforcement, fire, everyone,” Brown said. A reminder that we all must continue to work today because, Brown says proudly, “This is our community.”

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