The serenity of Christmas Day morning was shattered in downtown Nashville after a massive explosion rocked a city block. Residents expecting a quiet day at home were driven from their beds, and details are slowly emerging about who caused the explosion, and some answers possibly as to why.
What Happened in Nashville on Christmas Day?
The strange series of events leading up to the Christmas Day explosion began just after midnight on the 25th. Around 1:30AM, a white RV pulled up to the curb on 2nd Avenue in downtown Nashville. The RV was an older model with a truck cab.
A few hours later, nearby resident Betsy Williams claims she was awoken by the sound of what seemed to be rapid-fire gunshots. CNN reports, “‘It sounded like an automatic weapon,’ she said, saying it was ‘disconcerting.’ About 5-10 minutes later, she heard the sound again, so she called 911. Minutes later, she heard the gunfire a third time, so she called 911 again.
Buck McCoy said he, too, was woken up by what he thought were gunshots. He got up and looked out the window, he said, but went back to bed when he didn’t see anything. Police said they were called to the location after a report of shots fired around 5:30 a.m.”
When police arrived at the scene, they found the RV parked at 166 2nd Avenue North, in downtown historic Nashville. The vehicle was parked in front of an AT&T transmission building, a detail which would become important in the days after the explosion as police pieced information together.
The vehicle was broadcasting a warning on repeat. An electronic female voice warned, “This vehicle will explode in 15 minutes. Evacuate now.” The voice updated every minute, counting down 14 minutes, then 13, and so forth.
Police began frantically knocking on nearby doors and urged people to evacuate. Per CNN, “As the countdown grew closer to its end, the message emanating from the RV changed, according to surveillance video taken from a building across the street.
‘If you can hear this message, evacuate now,’ the voice said at about 6:30 a.m. ‘If you can hear this message, evacuate now.’
Then a bang and a blinding flash.
[David] Malloy, with his dog, said he asked an officer whether they were supposed to evacuate when he saw the explosion. ‘It was just this huge fireball explosion,’ he said. ‘I didn’t know what to make of it.’
Williams and her family saw the explosive fireball as they were driving down 2nd Avenue, she said.
‘Everything just, I mean, everything shook. It was quite the blast,’ she said. When Buck McCoy looked outside, he saw trees down everywhere and broken glass littering the street.
‘Everything on the street was fire,’ he said. ‘There were three cars that were fully engulfed.'”
The explosion occurred around 6:30AM.
Who is Behind the Blast, and What Are His Motives?
After human remains were found in the wreckage of the RV, DNA tests were performed to determine the identity. The results identified Anthony Q Warner, a 63-year-old resident of Antioch, Tennessee.
The New York Times Reports, “‘Anthony Warner is the bomber,’ Donald Q. Cochran, the U.S. attorney for the Middle District of Tennessee, said at a news conference on Sunday afternoon. ‘He was present when the bomb went off and he perished in the bombing.’
Law enforcement officials said that there were no indications of anyone else being involved in the bombing, and the investigation continued into possible motives behind it. The sprawling inquiry has included hundreds of federal agents and officers pursuing more than 500 leads since Friday.
Federal agents searched a home on Saturday belonging to Mr. Warner in Antioch, Tenn., roughly 11 miles from the site of the blast. Images of the same building from March and May 2019, captured on Google Street View, show an R.V. in the yard that appears similar to the one that the police say was detonated.”
According to the investigation, Warner had recently given away his vehicles and homes, and had resigned from work on December 5th.
It is believed that Warner intentionally targeted the AT&T transmission center, in order to disrupt cell service in the region. Warner’s father was employed by AT&T until his death in 2011, and it’s possible that Warner blamed his connection with the company for his father’s death. Warner was reportedly deep into conspiracy theories, including one that suggests that 5G cell service is responsible for harming people in the vicinity. Although people have scoured Warner’s past for political connections, it appears that his conspiracy theories were not politically-based.
Is This an Isolated Incident?
There is no reason to believe that Warner had associates. It does appear to be an isolated suicide bombing. Because Warner was so careful to warn residents away from the vehicle before it exploded, and because he chose a time when people were the least likely to be in the vicinity, it’s clear that his intention was not to cause harm to people. Warner likely thought he would be considered a hero for saving people from the evils of 5G.
Although it does appear to be an isolated incident, it raises red flags. The explosion knocked out cell services for tens of thousands of locals, highlighting just how vulnerable American communication infrastructure is. Now that the glaring weaknesses have been revealed, companies like AT&T will invest money to insure they aren’t left high and dry so easily again. This will have national security benefits by making it harder for foreign or domestic terrorist agents to hobble or cripple communications in the event of an attack.
Warner is not likely to be remembered a hero for the reasons he thought, but it’s possible his actions will lead to good down the line. 3 people were injured in the blast, but no one was killed, due to Warner’s warnings and the quick thinking of Nashville police. It’s an odd and unsettling tale that leaves more questions than it answers as the investigations continue. The peace of mind of Nashville residents will be long in returning. Historic downtown Nashville will take years to recover, and it will never be the same again.