Authorities say the man suspected of setting off a bomb in a campervan that rocked downtown Nashville on Christmas morning died in the explosion


Authorities say the man suspected of setting off a bomb in a campervan that rocked downtown Nashville on Christmas morning died in the explosion.

Key points:

  • Investigators identified the suspect as Anthony Quinn Warner and said his remains were found in the wreckage
  • The attack damaged a building owned by telecommunications company AT&T
  • Work is still underway to restore phone services and police and hospital communications in several US states

Three people were injured and dozens of buildings damaged in the explosion.

Moments before, an ominous recording blared from the vehicle and when it stopped Petula Clark’s 1964 hit Downtown started playing.

Surveillance video which appeared to be across the street from the blast captured the recorded warning stating, “if you can hear this message, evacuate now,” seconds before the explosion.

US Attorney Don Cochran identified the suspect as Anthony Quinn Warner.

Investigators said they used DNA to identify the remains as Mr Warner’s and matched the van’s vehicle identification number to a registration belonging to him.

Federal agents and police had searched a home in suburban Nashville associated with the suspect.

However, the authorities did not immediately provide details about a potential motive.

Douglas Korneski, the special agent in charge of the FBI’s office in Memphis, said there was no indication anyone aside from Mr Warner was involved in the bombing.

Police said Mr Warner had experience with electronics and alarms, according to public records, and had worked as a computer consultant for a Nashville real estate agency.

First responders recount experience of explosion

People walk in the wreckage of an explosion in a city street.

The explosion was felt nine blocks away after a loud boom was heard early Christmas morning.(AP: Mark Humphrey)

Police officers earlier provided harrowing details of responding to the Christmas morning explosion in downtown Nashville, at times getting choked up reliving the moments that led up to the blast and offering gratitude that they were still alive.

“This is going to tie us together forever, for the rest of my life,” Officer James Wells, who was suffering hearing loss after the explosion, told reporters at a news conference.

The five responding officers gave their accounts of what happened on Friday.

“I just see orange and then I hear a loud boom. As I’m stumbling around, I just tell myself to stay on my feet and to stay alive,” Officer Wells said, at times tearing up.

Officer Amanda Topping said she initially parked their police car beside the van while responding to the call before moving it once they heard the recording.

Officer Topping said she called her wife to let her know that “things were just really strange” as she helped guide people away from the area.

That’s when she heard the recording switch from a warning to playing Downtown. Moments later the explosion struck.

“I felt the waves of heat but I kind of just lost it and started sprinting toward [Wells],” Officer Topping said.

“I’ve never grabbed someone so hard in my life.”

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,” Officer Hosey said, adding she had to plead with the family to leave the building as quickly as possible.

Motives still under investigation

Police officer walks by charred cars and trees on street.

Three people were taken to hospital after the blast, but none of them were critically injured.(AP: Mark Humphrey)

The attack, which damaged an AT&T building, has continued to wreak havoc on mobile phone service and police and hospital communications in several southern US states as the company worked to restore service.

Another law enforcement official, who was not authorised to discuss an ongoing investigation and spoke to the Associated Press on condition of anonymity, said federal agents were examining a number of potential leads and pursuing several theories, including the possibility that the AT&T building was targeted.

Police emergency systems in Tennessee, Kentucky and Alabama, as well as Nashville’s COVID-19 community hotline and a handful of hospital systems were impacted.

The building contained a telephone exchange, with network equipment in it — but the company has declined to say exactly how many people were affected.

The Federal Aviation Administration has issued a temporary flight restriction around the airport, requiring pilots to follow strict procedures until December 30.

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