US officials: Suspect in Nashville explosion died in blast

Mid-South

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (NewsNation Now) — Federal authorities identified on Sunday the man they say is responsible for the Christmas Day bombing in Nashville and said that he died in the explosion.

Investigators used DNA to link the man, identified as Anthony Quinn Warner, to the blast. They said they believe no one else was involved.

Anthony Quinn Warner

Metro Nashville Police Department Spokesman Don Aaron confirmed Warner’s identity earlier Sunday. Federal and state investigators had been working to determine who set off a bomb inside a recreational vehicle Friday morning that injured three people and damaged more than 40 businesses.

Separately, a law enforcement official told The Associated Press that federal investigators have started examining Warner’s digital footprint and financial history. They are also examining a recent deed transfer of a home in suburban Nashville.

The official said forensic analysts are reviewing evidence collected from the blast site to try to identify the components of the explosives and are also reviewing information from the U.S. Bomb Data Center for intelligence and investigative leads.

Federal agents are examining a number of potential leads and pursuing several theories, including the possibility that an AT&T building was targeted. The bomb caused damage that affected communications in several states.

Federal investigators identified a person of interest Saturday in connection with the explosion.

More than 24 hours after the explosion, a motive remained elusive as investigators worked round-the-clock to resolve unanswered questions about a recreational vehicle that blew up on a mostly deserted street on a sleepy holiday morning and was prefaced by a recorded warning advising those nearby to evacuate. The attack, which damaged an AT&T building, continued to wreak havoc Saturday on cellphone service and police and hospital communications in several Southern states.

Investigators from multiple federal and local law enforcement agencies were at a home in Antioch, in suburban Nashville, after receiving information relevant to the investigation, said FBI Special Agent Jason Pack. Another law enforcement official, who was not authorized to discuss an ongoing investigation and spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity, said investigators regard a person associated with the property as a person of interest in the bombing.

The FBI does not believe there is “another subject” that FBI agents need to search for in connection explosion, the bureau said Saturday.

Earlier Saturday, investigators said at a news conference they are looking at a number of individuals who may be connected to the bombing but have also found no additional explosive devices — indicating no active threat to the area.

Douglas Korneski, the special agent in charge of the FBI’s Memphis field office, said 250 agents, analysts, and FBI staff working the case are making progress in the search for the person or people responsible for planting a bomb in a recreational vehicle that exploded along a mostly deserted street. Three people were injured.

“It’s just going to take us some time,” he said. “Our investigative team is turning over every stone” to understand who did this and why.

Nashville’s mayor said the initial evidence the blast was “a deliberate bomb,” and the FBI is asking the public’s help related to an RV at the center of the investigation.

“(Friday) morning’s attack on our community was intended to create chaos and fear in this season of peace and hope. But Nashvillians have proven time and time again that the spirit of our city cannot be broken,” Mayor John Cooper said at a news conference after issuing a curfew for the area.

Law enforcement agencies have received 500 tips since the Christmas Day explosion, turning a part of downtown into what US Attorney Don Cochran called “a giant jigsaw puzzle created by a bomb.”

“We are continuing to follow every lead we have,” Cochran said.

Separately, the Federal Emergency Management Agency said in a report Saturday that tissue samples found at the scene were determined to be human remains.

At the center of the investigation is an RV that was parked downtown at 1:22 a.m. (CST). Officers were called to the scene later in the morning to a call of shots fired.

Courtesy: Metro Nashville PD via Twitter

Tennessee Governor Bill Lee requested an emergency declaration from President Donald Trump Saturday to “support ongoing efforts and relief.” At least 41 buildings were damaged, and communications systems — including residential and cell phone service and 911 call centers — failed across the state, he said. Kentucky and northern Alabama were also affected, he said.

“Officers encountered an RV that had a recording saying that a potential bomb would detonate within 15 minutes. Upon hearing that, officers decided to evacuate the buildings nearby,” Drake said. “Shortly after that the RV exploded.”

Surveillance video published on a Twitter account Friday that appeared to be across the street from the blast captured the warning issuing from the RV, “… if you can hear this message, evacuate now,” seconds before the explosion.

The department’s Hazardous Devices Unit was called to check the RV, but the vehicle exploded outside an AT&T transmission building, knocking out cellphone and internet connections to customers throughout the area, 911 services and caused issues to air traffic controllers at Nashville’s airport.

Drake said there weren’t any known threats to the city. He called it a “total surprise.”

At least three people suffered non-life-threatening injuries and were transported to local hospitals, the Nashville Fire Department said. Mayor Cooper said all three are in stable condition.

[From Top L to Bottom R] Officer Brenna Hosey, Officer Richard Luellen, Officer Michael Sipos, Officer Amanda Topping, Officer James Wells, Sergeant Timothy Miller. (Source: Metro Nashville Police Department)

Explosion knocks communications offline

AT&T said the affected building is the central office of a telephone exchange, with network equipment in it. The blast interrupted service, but the company declined to say how widespread outages were.

As of 8:30 am CST Saturday, the company said it is working around the clock on recovery efforts.

At our facility, the focus of the restoration continues to be getting power to the equipment in a safe and secure way.  Challenges remain, including a fire which reignited overnight and led to the evacuation of the building.  Currently, our teams are on site working with safety and structural engineers. They have drilled access holes into the building and are attempting to reconnect power to critical equipment. Technical teams are also working as quickly as possible on rerouting additional services to other facilities in the region to restore service.

AT&T

The AT&T outages site showed service issues in middle Tennessee and Kentucky. Several police agencies reported that their 911 systems were down because of the outage, including Knox County, home to Knoxville about 180 miles east of Nashville.

Tennessee Emergency management released alternative phone numbers for 911 services:

AT&T said that it was bringing in portable cell sites and was working with law enforcement to get access to make repairs to its equipment. The company noted that “power is essential to restoring” service.

The Federal Aviation Administration temporarily halted flights out of Nashville International Airport because of telecommunications issues associated with the explosion.

The destruction of the blast

Black smoke and flames were seen early Friday billowing from the area, which is packed with bars, restaurants and other retail establishments and is known as the heart of downtown Nashville’s tourist scene.

“Forty-one businesses materially damaged by this blast,” Cooper said. “There will be others.”

Police close off an area damaged by an explosion on Christmas morning on December 25, 2020 in Nashville, Tennessee. A Hazardous Devices Unit was en route to check on a recreational vehicle which then exploded, extensively damaging some nearby buildings. According to reports, the police believe the explosion to be intentional, with at least 3 injured and human remains found in the vicinity of the explosion. (Photo by Terry Wyatt/Getty Images)

Buildings shook in the immediate area and beyond after a loud boom was heard.

“Given 2020 we’re not sure how we would wake up on Christmas Day, but yeah this is not the way we thought we would wake up,” said Sunny Fleming, who awoke to the blast. “We felt and heard it at the house.”

Buck McCoy, who lives near the area, posted videos on Facebook that show water pouring down the ceiling of his home. Alarms blare in the background and cries of people in great distress ring in the background. A fire is visible in the street outside. McCoy said the windows of his home were entirely blown out.

“All my windows, every single one of them got blown into the next room. If I had been standing there it would have been horrible,” he said.

“There were about four cars on fire. I don’t know if it was so hot they just caught on fire, and the trees were all blown apart,” he said.

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The downtown area will remain shutdown while Metro Police, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the FBI and other agencies investigate. The mayor also issued a curfew in the area.

President Trump has been briefed, according to White House spokesperson Judd Deere, who said that Trump, who is spending the holidays in Florida, will continue to receive regular updates.

President-elect Joe Biden has also been briefed.

“The president-elect and Dr. Biden thank all the first responders working today in response to the incident, and wish those who were injured a speedy recovery,” the transition team said in a statement.

The U.S. Justice Department said Acting Attorney General Jeff Rosen was also briefed and directed all department resources be made available to help with the investigation.

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee said on Twitter that the state would provide the resources necessary “to determine what happened and who was responsible. Please join @MariaLeeTN and me in praying for those who were injured and we thank all of our first responders who acted so quickly this morning.”

Anyone with information about this case is asked to contact Crime Stoppers at 615-742-7463.

The FBI has also established a digital tip line for anyone with information about the explosion. Those who prefer to call can do so by dialing 1-800-CALL-FBI.

The American Red Cross of Tennessee announced that it was working with officials to open a shelter for victims.

Earlier briefings

This story is developing. Check back for updates.

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NewsNation affiliate WKRN and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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