‘He was not on our radar’: authorities search for motive in Nashville blast

FILE PHOTO: Law enforcement officers gather to investigate information arising the day after a downtown Nashville explosion, outside a duplex house in Antioch
Law enforcement officers gather to investigate information arising the day after a downtown Nashville explosion, outside a duplex house in Antioch, Tennessee, U.S. December 26, 2020.
REUTERS/Harrison McClary/File Photo

By Nathan Layne, Reuters

Federal, state and local law enforcement officers on Monday were searching for the motive behind a bombing that rocked Nashville on Christmas morning, with no concrete clues yet emerging as to why the 63-year-old suspect carried out his suicide mission.

The FBI on Sunday identified the suspect as Anthony Q. Warner and said he died in the blast, which damaged more than 40 businesses in downtown Nashville, Tennessee’s largest city and the United States’ country music capital.

Warner’s motor home exploded at dawn on Friday soon after police, who were responding to reports of gunfire, heard music and an automated message emanating from the vehicle warning of a bomb. Police hurried to evacuate people in the area, and Warner is the only person known to have perished.

David Rausch, director of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, said that Warner’s mother was cooperating with the multi-agency probe but that motive remained elusive. He said Warner’s criminal history was limited to a marijuana charge.

“He was not on our radar,” Rausch told a news briefing on Monday. “We are all taking pieces of the puzzle, working to determine what the motivation was for this individual.”

The bombing took place in the early morning when there was little activity in the city. In addition to the warning, the audio on Warner’s recreational vehicle also played a recording of Petula Clark’s 1964 hit, “Downtown,” before the blast.

Nashville Mayor John Cooper has said that local officials felt there had to be some connection between the bombing, which occurred near an AT&T Inc transmission building on the city’s busy Second Avenue, and the building.

Nashville Councilman At-Large Bob Mendes said that while it seems Warner took steps with the warning to limit deaths, the bombing was likely to be labelled domestic terrorism once the suspect’s agenda becomes clear.

“You don’t go out of your way to build a bomb this big,” said Mendes, a lawyer. “He had to have had a callous disregard for whether there would be a loss of life.”

The explosion injured three people and damaged businesses, disrupting mobile, internet and TV services across central Tennessee and parts of four other states. AT&T said on Monday that it had restored services to nearly all impacted homes.

Investigators searched Warner’s home on Saturday and visited a Nashville real estate agency where he had worked part-time, providing computer consulting services.

Speaking to Fox News on Monday, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee described the damage in Nashville as “enormous” and said he expected President Donald Trump would shortly grant his request to declare a state of emergency to assist the state.

Lee said it appeared Warner had acted alone but that investigators were still searching for motive.

“Very unusual circumstances, particularly because there was a warning to try to keep people from being hurt, so we’ll just wait and see what – what they find,” he said.