Everything We Know About the Nashville Explosion

Photo: Thaddaeus McAdams/2020 Thaddaeus McAdams

Early on Christmas morning, an explosive detonated inside an RV parked in downtown Nashville, blasting out the windows in neighboring buildings and shooting a huge fireball into the air, and injuring at least three people. Authorities also found human remains on the scene, which they later identified as belonging to the bomber: Anthony Quinn Warner, a 63-year-old Nashville resident who was inside the RV at the time of the explosion, the Tennessean reports. While law enforcement is still investigating his motive, they do not believe he intended for mass casualties.

Here’s everything we know about the Nashville explosion.

A countdown to the explosion advised residents to evacuate the area.

According to Nashville police, a white RV drove onto 2nd Avenue North around 1:22 a.m. on December 25, Christmas Day. Police later found the vehicle parked outside an AT&T transmission building, after receiving reports of gunshots around 5:30 a.m. Resident Betsy Williams, who lives in a loft in the area, told CNN that “it sounded like an automatic weapon” going off at intervals, prompting her to call 911. When officers arrived, they reportedly found the RV broadcasting a message to “evacuate now” because “this vehicle will explode in 15 minutes,” kicking off a countdown to the bomb’s detonation.

“When the time started, that’s when we went, ‘Oh shit,’” Williams told CNN. “We need to get out of here.” Meanwhile, a team of six police officers began racing through the neighborhood and knocking on doors, moving people out of the area in the minutes before the explosion occurred.

As the clock ticked down to zero, the automated warning changed: “If you can hear this message, evacuate now,” it reportedly repeated. And just before the blast went off, the recording took an eerie turn. According to the Tennessean, police reported hearing the following lyric from the early ’60s song “Downtown” by Petula Clark: “The lights are much brighter there.” And then, at 6:30 a.m., the street exploded in a flash, downing trees and shattering windows.

“It was just this huge fireball explosion,” witness David Malloy, who was out walking his dog at the time, told CNN. “I didn’t know what to make of it.” Another witness, Buck McCoy added: “Everything on the street was fire. There were three cars that were fully engulfed.”

The explosion damaged some 41 businesses, partially collapsed a building, and affected an AT&T network hub badly enough to disrupt local wireless service and flights at Nashville’s airport, CNN reports. (Video of the explosion — which sent three people to the hospital with noncritical injuries — is available here.)

The bomber has been identified as Anthony Quinn Warner.

On the evening of December 25, Nashville mayor John Cooper said someone set off a “deliberate bomb” with the purported intention of causing pandemonium, while a “federal law enforcement source” told CNN that Nashville faced no credible threats ahead of the bombing that would indicate a terrorist threat. Cooper called the act “intentional,” though he also pointed to the timing, suggesting it was “clearly done when no one was going to be around.”

On Sunday evening, officials announced they had identified the bomber as 63-year-old resident Anthony Quinn Warner, who was inside the vehicle when it exploded and “perished in the bombing,” said U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Tennessee Don Cochran. (Authorities confirmed that the human remains found on the scene matched Warner’s DNA.) According to the Tennessean, Warner — who had virtually no digital footprint — held various IT jobs, including operator for a company that made burglar alarms. In interviews with the Washington Post, Warner’s neighbors characterized him as reclusive; they also reported seeing an RV similar to the one featured in surveillance footage parked in his backyard over the past few months. Tony Rodriguez, who lives in Warner’s duplex, said that Warner had staked out much of his property — particularly the area where he parked his RV — with “no trespassing” signs.

Investigators have not yet publicly identified a motive, but have declined to call the incident an act of terrorism, the Tennessean reports.

Warner’s girlfriend reportedly warned police about a bomb threat over a year ago.

The Tennessean reports that, in August 2019, Warner’s girlfriend told police that she suspected he was building bombs in his RV, the same one that exploded on Christmas Day. The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation has since claimed Warner was “not on our radar” before December 25, but the Metro Nashville Police Department reportedly forwarded the woman’s report to the FBI.

According to the Tennessean, the woman’s attorney, Raymond Throckmorton III, initially called police out of concern for his client’s well-being. When they arrived at her home, she was sitting on the porch with two of Warner’s unloaded guns, saying “she did not want them in the house any longer.” She also told the responding officers that Warner “was building bombs in the RV trailer at his residence,” per the police report. Throckmorton told officers that Warner “frequently talks about the military and bomb making” and “knows what he is doing and is capable of making a bomb.” Speaking to the Tennessean, Throckmorton said that he feared Warner might harm his client, and pressed police to investigate her claims. They say they did go to Warner’s house, but he didn’t answer when they knocked. Officers also saw the RV, which apparently had “several security cameras and wires attached to an alarm sign on the front door,” according to the report.

Police told the Tennessean that they passed their report to the FBI the next day, but the FBI said it had “found no records on Warner at all.” Meanwhile, the Defense Department’s “checks on Warner were all negative,” an MNPD spokesperson told the Tennessean.

Meanwhile, Warner’s girlfriend, who was allegedly in the middle of a mental-health crisis at the time, was reportedly taken in for psychological evaluation.

Authorities do not suspect any further threat.

On Saturday evening, Metro Police Chief John Drake assured Nashville residents that the area was “safe.” Drake continued, “We feel and know that we have no known threats at this time.” On Sunday evening, Doug Korneski, an FBI special agent in charge, reiterated this message: After reviewing “hours of security video surrounding the recreational vehicle,” they concluded that Warner acted alone.

This post has been updated.

Everything We Know About the Nashville Explosion