A massive explosion ripped through downtown Nashville on Christmas morning. It severely damaged much of the area’s 2nd Avenue including at least 41 buildings.
The explosives were placed in an RV that arrived in the downtown area at approximately 1:22 a.m. Surveillance photos captured the RV that police believe was linked to the blast. The authorities have asked anyone with information about the RV or the bombing to call Crime Stoppers at 615-742-7463 or report it online via http://fbi.gov/nashville.
The RV from the surveillance photos appears to be similar to a late ’90s Four Winds 31-ft RV on a Ford chassis.
Several hours later, people who lived in the area reported hearing automatic gunfire. Five minutes later, the gunfire was repeated, and a few minutes later the gunfire was heard a third time. Several citizens called 911 and reported it to Nashville police.
Police reports say that they were called to the area at 5:30 a.m. in response to the gunfire. When they arrived at the scene the officers found the RV parked in front of an AT&T transmission building at 166 2nd Avenue North.
The RV was repeatedly broadcasting a message warning of an explosion set to occur in 15 minutes, police said.
“Evacuate now,” a computerized, female voice coming from the vehicle said. The voice was heard in several surveillance videos that were posted on Twitter.
“This vehicle will explode in 15 minutes,” the voice said. After repeating that message for a minute, the voice continued the countdown.
Police officers then went on a frantic attempt to evacuate as many people as possible and cordoned off the area. At about 6:30 a.m. the computerized voice said, “If you can hear this message, evacuate now, If you can hear this message, evacuate now.” Then a thundering explosion went off. The explosion and its accompanying massive flash were seen on cameras in the area.
One police officer was thrown off his feet by the blast, another was deafened by the explosion but neither was seriously hurt. First responders transported three people to nearby hospitals but police reported that none of the injuries appeared life-threatening. It appeared that the bomb was placed at a time and place where the number of civilian casualties would be at the lowest possible.
Later police found tissue around the blast site that they believe may be human remains. Whether those are from the RV or someone in the immediate vicinity of the blast is not known at the present time.
Nashville Mayor John Cooper declared a state of emergency. He signed an emergency order and established a curfew. “I have signed Executive Order 12 to issue a state of civil emergency proclaimed within the area bounded by James Robertson Parkway, 4th Ave North, Broadway, and the Cumberland River. A curfew will start at 4:30 pm, Thursday, [sic] Dec 25. and be lifted Sunday, December 27 at 4:30 p.m.” the mayor said on Twitter.
One of the buildings damaged by the explosion partially collapsed. Further, the AT&T building, which houses the company’s local network hub, was damaged knocking out cell service in the area and causing a disruption of flights at Nashville’s international airport. Resultantly, the FAA halted flights for a short time due to telecommunications issues.
The FBI has taken over the investigation since the incident has been categorized as a terroristic attack and the damage to the AT&T building interfered with interstate commerce. However, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) has also alerted its National Response Team (NRT).
The NRT is composed of special agents, having post-blast and fire origin-and-cause expertise; forensic chemists; explosives enforcement officers; fire protection engineers; accelerant detection canines; explosives detection canines; intelligence support; and audit support. The team also has technical, legal, and intelligence advisors.
The NRT are experts in reconstructing a crime or bomb scene and identifying the seat and composition of a bomb. This assists state and federal district attorneys in prosecuting cases.
SOFREP spoke to a veteran ATF agent who said that while the investigation is just beginning, the NRT will begin the painstaking task of piecing together all of the forensic evidence to reconstruct the bomb, timer, and triggering device. The agent stated that the FBI will be looking at different organizations or individuals. These will include suspects who may have already been on the bureau’s radar and slipped away, whom he characterized as “known wolf” rather than “lone wolf” terror suspects.