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Investigators Identify Person of Interest in Nashville Explosion

The Wall Street Journal. logo The Wall Street Journal. 12/26/2020 Cameron McWhirter, Jimmy Vielkind, Sadie Gurman, Dan Frosch
a group of people standing on a beach © harrison mcclary/Reuters

Investigators identified a Nashville, Tenn., resident as a person of interest in the bombing that hit the city Christmas morning, according to law-enforcement officials.

Police on Saturday afternoon were searching 63-year-old Anthony Quinn Warner’s home for evidence, one of the officials said.

A photo on Google Maps taken in May of 2019 of a home where Mr. Warner lived, according to records, shows a recreational vehicle in his yard. The Nashville explosion was caused by a bomb in an RV.

Mr. Warner couldn’t be immediately reached for comment. Nashville’s police chief previously said investigators were analyzing body tissue found near the scene to determine whether it was connected to the person who set off the blast.

At a news conference Saturday, federal investigators said they were reviewing more than 500 leads related to the explosion.

Hundreds of law-enforcement officials swept the downtown neighborhood affected by the bomb and found no evidence of additional explosive devices, said Douglas Korneski, special agent in charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Memphis office, which covers Nashville.

“There are a number of individuals that we are looking at,” said Mr. Korneski. “We’re looking at every possible motive that may be involved.”

He said it was unclear whether one person or multiple people were responsible.

The Christmas morning explosion, which came after a sound system in the RV made announcements about a bomb inside, injured at least three people and damaged at least 41 buildings, one of which was destroyed, according to authorities. The three people were reported to be in stable condition.

Because of reports of shots fired and the suspicious RV before the explosion, police and emergency workers were on the scene and helped people evacuate from nearby buildings before the blast.

“The severity and magnitude of the current situation is such that effective response is beyond the capabilities of the State and affected local governments,” Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee, a Republican, wrote in a letter to President Trump, asking him to declare the county surrounding Nashville as an emergency zone. The letter was dated Dec. 25 but released to the public on Saturday.

White House representatives didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Mr. Lee toured the explosion site Saturday morning and tweeted that “The damage is shocking and it is a miracle that no residents were killed.”

He said that while an investigation is under way, the attack “is believed to be a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device.”

Agents from the FBI, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and other state and local law-enforcement agencies are coordinating to investigate who was involved in the attack and their possible motive. The ATF has brought in explosive experts to Nashville and is mobilizing staff at the bureau’s U.S. Bomb Data Center to figure out what happened, said spokesman Michael Knight.

The blast, which took place next to AT&T Inc.’s switching station, caused widespread outages in cellular and internet service in Tennessee, Kentucky and northern Alabama that were continuing Saturday.

Stephen Flynn, director of the Global Resilience Institute at Northeastern University in Boston, said many cities have buildings that were once filled with telephone operators but that have been repurposed with servers and other electronic infrastructure.

“We have a lot of critical infrastructure in plain sight, where…you can cause real disruption,” he said.

Marcus Sachs, who researches cyber and infrastructure security at Auburn University, experienced the telecom outage at his home in northern Alabama.

Mr. Sachs, who previously advised the White House on infrastructure security, said the Christmas bombing demonstrated why people and firms should consider using several carriers for backup protection.

Unlike generators that can help with an electrical failure, Mr. Sachs said, “With communications, unless you have radios for backup, you’re kind of hung out to dry if a major carrier goes out.”

AT&T said on its website Saturday that it had run into challenges restoring power and fixing equipment at the building, including fire caused by the explosion that reignited overnight. Teams had drilled holes into the building in an effort to reconnect power, the company said. Crews also were trying to reroute services and erected portable cell sites in the Nashville area to try to handle calls and internet service.

Nashville Fire Department Director-Chief William Swann said his department was working with AT&T to restore backup generators to its facilities which would allow for the restoration of wireless service. “We’re hoping within the next day if we are fortunate—it may take one or two days to get everything back online,” Mr. Swann said.

The section of Nashville’s downtown where the blast occurred remained closed to the public Saturday as investigations continue. Mayor John Cooper has imposed a curfew on the area until Sunday at 4:30 p.m. and urged people to stay away from downtown until the FBI concluded its work.

The area is part of Nashville’s normally bustling entertainment district, with restaurants, bars and music venues. Most of those businesses have been struggling this year because of the pandemic. Ryman Auditorium, which is located a few blocks from the blast and known as the “Mother Church of Country Music,” said it would be closed for the weekend.

Write to Cameron McWhirter at, Jimmy Vielkind at, Sadie Gurman at and Dan Frosch at


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