NASHVILLE, Tenn. (NewsNation Now) — As FBI evidence technicians continue to process the scene of the Christmas morning explosion in downtown Nashville, the city’s police department released new video Monday from a body camera issued to one of its officers days before the blast.
It shows what Officer Michael Sipos saw minutes after officers found a white RV blaring a recorded warning about an impending explosion, and the heroic work they did to get people to safety.
One of the officers can be heard reassuring someone on the street. “You’re not doing anything wrong, okay? You’re not in trouble,” she says. “But there is something very serious going on…“
A short time later, Officer Sipos is seen returning to his squad car, presumably to retrieve his ballistic vest, when the device detonates. He quickly dons his vest to join his fellow officers, who’ve said they were expecting secondary activity; either a gunfight or another explosion.
The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation says the fact that Friday’s blast came with a warning—even a countdown—tells them the intent was likely to do a lot of damage, but not to kill. Only the suspected bomber died, leaving behind dozens of damaged buildings and questions about a motive that may never be fully understood.
The FBI released a recent photo of the suspect, 63-year-old Anthony Warner, on Monday, along with a fresh appeal for leads, saying tips have played a big role in the case so far.
“The calls that came in from the public were absolutely key to the identification, at least with a name,” said David Rausch, Director of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation.
They are continuing to ask anyone with information about Warner or this case to call 1-800-CALL-FBI or submit tips by clicking here. Investigators say his mother has been helpful.
It was a name unfamiliar to law enforcement, and most other people, until Friday. Anthony Quinn Warner, officials say, was unmarried, had no children and lived quietly in the same Nashville community where he was raised. He worked in Information Technology and with alarm systems. Surveillance cameras ring his home in Antioch, about 10 miles -a 15 minute drive- from the scene of the explosion.
Neighbors barely knew him, save one. Rick Laude told the Associated Press he had a chance conversation with Warner at his mailbox on December 21st, in which his neighbor cryptically mentioned that “Nashville and the world is never going to forget me.”
It seemed like a friendly chat between neighbors. Only after a bomb exploded in downtown Nashville on Christmas morning could Laude grasp the sinister meaning behind his neighbor’s smiling remark.
Laude told AP on Monday that he was speechless when he learned that authorities identified his neighbor as the man suspected of detonating a bomb that killed himself, injured three other people and damaged dozens of buildings.
Laude said he saw Warner standing at his mailbox less than a week before Christmas and pulled over in his car to talk. After asking how Warner’s elderly mother was doing, Laude said he casually asked him, “Is Santa going to bring you anything good for Christmas?”
Warner smiled and said, “Oh, yeah, Nashville and the world is never going to forget me,” Laude recalled.
Laude said he didn’t think much of the remark and thought Warner only meant that “something good” was going to happen for him financially.
“Nothing about this guy raised any red flags,” Laude said. “He was just quiet.”
Jacqueline Peebles likely won’t. She lives across the street and tells NewsNation she barely saw Warner, but remembers the white RV once parked in his yard.
“I’m a little shocked that I had a neighbor who would be involved in something like that,” she said. “I need to pay more attention to my neighbors, I guess.”
Warner left behind clues that suggest he planned and intended to kill himself in the bombing, but a clear motive remains elusive.
Three days later, evidence technicians are still at the scene picking through the rubble. They’re also looking into the life of the accused bombmaker.
Investigators are analyzing property belonging to Warner that was collected during the investigation, including a computer and a portable storage drive, and are continuing to interview witnesses as they try to identify a potential motive for the explosion, a law enforcement official said. A review of his financial transactions also uncovered purchases of potential bomb-making components, the official said.
Warner had recently given away a vehicle and told the person he gave it to that he had been diagnosed with cancer, though it is unclear whether he indeed had cancer, the official said. Investigators used some items collected from the vehicle, including a hat and gloves, to match Warner’s DNA.
Warner also apparently gave away his home in Antioch, a Nashville suburb, to a Los Angeles woman a month before the bombing. A property record dated Nov. 25 indicates Warner transferred the home to the woman in exchange for no money after living there for decades. The woman’s signature is not on that document.
In just a few days, hundreds of tips and leads have been submitted to law enforcement agencies. Yet thus far, officials have not provided information on what possibly drove Warner to set off the explosion.
Furthermore, officials have not provided insight into why Warner selected the particular location for the bombing, which damaged an AT&T building and continued to wreak havoc on cellphone service and police and hospital communications in several Southern states as the company worked to restore service.
The bombing took place on a holiday morning well before downtown streets were bustling with activity and was accompanied by a recorded announcement warning anyone nearby that a bomb would soon detonate. Then, for reasons that may never be known, the audio switched to a recording of Petula Clark’s 1964 hit “Downtown” shortly before the blast.
On Sunday morning, police formally named Warner as being under investigation.
“This is going to tie us together forever, for the rest of my life,” Metro Nashville police Officer James Wells, who suffered some hearing loss due to the explosion, told reporters at a news conference. “Christmas will never be the same.”
Officer Brenna Hosey said she and her colleagues knocked on six or seven doors in nearby apartments to warn people to evacuate. She particularly remembered a startled mother of four children.
“I don’t have kids but I have cousins and nieces, people who I love who are small,” Hosey said, adding she had to plead with the family to leave the building as quickly as possible.
Three people suffered minor injuries in the blast, a fact that local officials have described as nothing short of a miracle.
The city says business owners will be allowed in soon to survey the damage and salvage what they can.
Federal aid is being requested to help rebuild a large portion of the city’s downtown, but as of late Monday Nashville’s mayor said he had not heard from President Trump.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.