Blast linked to suspicious vehicle under FBI investigation
Authorities have found human remains in the area where a Friday morning explosion rocked downtown Nashville and injured three people, an event police called “an intentional act” connected to an RV that blew up at approximately 6:30 a.m. local time.
It was unclear whether the remains were related to the explosion or if they were of the person responsible or a victim, officials said. The tissue found in the area will be examined, officials said. The FBI is investigating along with local officials and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and the city of Nashville activated its Emergency Operations Center.
“This appears to have been an intentional act,” Metro Nashville Police Department tweeted. “Law enforcement is closing downtown streets as investigation continues.”
An audio warning was being broadcast from an RV just before it blew up, Metro Nashville Police Department John Drake told reporters during a news conference.
“If you can hear this message, evacuate now,” the warning said.
Officers first responded to the area after receiving a report of shots fired, Drake said. They called in the bomb squad after seeing the suspicious vehicle, the RV, broadcasting a message about a potential explosion, he said. Drake said that officers found the vehicle with a recording saying that it would explode in 15 minutes.
“Basically (it) was saying that it was going to detonate within a certain time frame,” Drake told reporters. “The officers immediately began knocking on doors and evacuating residents here not knowing if the bomb was going to detonate immediately or if it was going to go off in the time that it stated.”
As of late Friday morning, police did not know if anyone had been inside the vehicle at the time of the explosion, and they were not yet able to confirm that shots were actually fired.
Three people suffered injuries related to the blast and were in stable condition, Mayor John Cooper said. In addition, 41-area businesses and homes sustained damage. Several residents were displaced, fire Chief William Swann said.
Drake praised the officers’ actions, saying if it were not for them, “we’d be talking not about the debris that we have here but also maybe potential people.”
He said investigators haven’t determined a motive for the explosion. He said he initially thought the incident was a propane explosion instead of an “intentional act.”
The investigation is now being led by the FBI’s Memphis field office, and a spokesperson for the Department of Justice said Acting Attorney General Jeff Rosen “directed that all DOJ resources be made available to assist in the investigation.”
“We’re putting everything we have into finding who was responsible for what’s happened here today,” FBI Assistant Special Agent in Charge Matt Foster told reporters during a Friday afternoon news conference. Drake told reporters at that time that he and his department “don’t feel there’s any concern to the downtown area” anymore.
Buck McCoy, who lives near the area, posted videos on Facebook that show water pouring down the ceiling of his home. Alarms blared 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.
“I’m trying to come to the realization that everything that that place I’ve been living in for the last five years is completely demolished,” he told “America’s News HQ.”
He said he was asleep and heard gunfire outside around 5:30 a.m.
“Within 10 minutes, I was laying in bed and there was just the biggest explosion I’ve ever, ever heard,” he said. “This is not one of the Christmas’ I thought I would ever experience.
“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.
The city had not received any threats prior to Fridays’ explosion, Drake said, who also speculated as to why it happened so early in the morning when no pedestrians would be on the streets.
“You would think this person didn’t want to harm people,” he said.
The blast caused noticeable tremors in the surrounding area and black smoke to rise.
“The entire @WKRN studio just shook,” the outlet’s alert desk anchor Josh Breslow tweeted. “Anyone else in Nashville just feel any weird shaking ??”
Cooper told WSMV-TV said dozens of buildings sustained damage from broken windows. He speculated about why Nashville was the site of Friday’s explosion.
“We’re a famous place. People know where we are,” he told reporters. “And if people want attention and publicity sometimes they think they can come here to get it. It’s not just New York and Los Angeles.”
According to social media posts, the explosion resulted in significant damage to a building that was on fire, with dozens of people evacuated.
Singer-songwriter Cassadee Pope was one of those who felt the effects of the incident.
“Our house shook here in Nashville,” Pope tweeted. “Just praying nobody was hurt.”
Rep. Jim Cooper, D-Tenn., expressed well-wishes, saying he is “praying for all residents of down Nashville on this Christmas Day.”
Friday’s explosion damaged some AT&T facilities, resulting in some issues with service in the area.
“Service for some customers in Nashville and the surrounding areas may be affected by damage to our facilities from the explosion this morning,” company spokesman Jim Greer told Fox News. “We are in contact with law enforcement and working as quickly and safely as possible to restore service.”
Swann said crews swept area buildings to make sure no personnel were inside. One structure collapsed due to the explosion and other buildings sustained water damage.
The water was shut off but “still the integrity of those buildings are in question,” he said.