NASHVILLE — The man believed to be responsible for the Christmas Day bombing that tore through downtown Nashville blew himself up in the explosion and appears to have acted alone, federal officials said Sunday.
Investigators used DNA and other evidence to link the man, identified as Anthony Quinn Warner, to the mysterious explosion but said they have not determined a motive. Officials have received hundreds of tips and leads but have concluded that no one other than Warner is believed to have been involved in the early morning explosion that damaged dozens of buildings and injured three people.
“Nashville is considered safe,” said Metro Nashville Police Chief John Drake. “There are no known threats against this city.”
In publicly identifying the suspect and his fate, officials disclosed a major breakthrough in their investigation even as they acknowledged the lingering mystery behind the explosion, which took place on a holiday morning well before downtown streets were bustling with activity and was accompanied by a recorded announcement warning anyone nearby that a bomb would soon detonate.
Then, for reasons that may never be known, the audio switched to a recording of Petula Clark’s 1964 hit “Downtown” shortly before the blast.
Investigators have not uncovered a singular motive for the act nor was it revealed why Warner had selected the particular location for the bombing, which damaged an AT&T building and has continued to wreak havoc on cellphone service and police and hospital communications in several Southern states as the company worked to restore service.
Authorities said Warner, 63, was not known to law enforcement before the Christmas blast.
Warner, who public records show had experience with electronics and alarms and who had also worked as a computer consultant for a Nashville realtor, had been regarded as a person of interest in the bombing since at least Saturday when federal and local investigators converged on a home in suburban Nashville linked to him.
Federal agents could be seen looking around the property, searching the home and the backyard. A Google Maps image captured in May 2019 had shown a recreational vehicle similar to the one that exploded parked in the backyard, but it was not at the property on Saturday, according to an Associated Press reporter at the scene.
On Sunday morning, police formally named Warner as being under investigation.
Officials said their identification of Warner relied on several key pieces of evidence, including DNA found at the explosion site. Investigators had previously revealed that human remains had been found in the vicinity.
In addition, investigators from the Tennessee Highway Patrol recovered parts from the RV among the wreckage from the blast, and were able to link the vehicle identification number to an RV that was registered to Warner, officials said.
“We’re still following leads, but right now there is no indication that any other persons were involved,” said Douglas Korneski, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Memphis field office. “We’ve reviewed hours of security video surrounding the recreation vehicle. We saw no other people involved.”
Police were responding to a report of shots fired Friday when they encountered the RV blaring a recorded warning that a bomb would detonate in 15 minutes. Suddenly the warning stopped, and Clark’s hit, “Downtown,” started playing.
The RV exploded shortly afterward, sending black smoke and flames billowing from the heart of downtown Nashville’s tourist scene, an area packed with honky-tonks, restaurants and shops.
Buildings shook and windows shattered streets away from the explosion near a building owned by AT&T that lies one block from the company’s office tower, a landmark in downtown.
Forensic analysts were reviewing evidence collected from the blast site to try to identify the components of the explosives as well as information from the U.S. Bomb Data Center for intelligence and investigative leads, according to a law enforcement official who said investigators were examining Warner’s digital footprint and financial history, as well as a recent deed transfer of the home they searched in suburban Nashville.
The official, who was not authorized to discuss an ongoing investigation and spoke to the AP 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.
Korneski said Sunday that officials were looking at any and all motives and were interviewing acquaintances of Warner’s to try to determine what may have motivated him.
Meanwhile, just blocks from where the bombing took place, tourists had already begun to fill the sidewalks Sunday on Lower Broadway, a central entertainment district. Some took selfies while others tried to get as close as possible to the explosion site, blocked by police barricades.
Earlier Sunday, the officers who responded provided harrowing details, at times getting choked up reliving the moments that led up to the blast.
“This is going to tie us together forever, for the rest of my life,” Officer James Wells, who suffered some hearing loss due to the explosion, told reporters at a news conference. “Christmas will never be the same.”
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,” Hosey said, adding she had to plead with the family to leave the building as quickly as possible.
DUFFIELD — Appalachian Sustainable Development is working harder than ever to feed hungry families during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Volunteers on Tuesday packed more than 1,000 food boxes for distribution at ASD’s Appalachian Harvest Food Hub in Duffield. Workers spent just over an hour packing the boxes, which weigh about 25 pounds each.
ASD has been creating jobs in farming and feeding hungry families since 1995, but staff members have never seen the need for food as high as it is today.
Thanks to generous supporters and special COVID-19 funding, though, the organization has been able to donate more than 2.2 million pounds of food to families in Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia since March 15.
ASD has been able to provide support to needy families for a variety of reasons:
• It has created a network of 25 local and regional food banks in Northeast Tennessee, Southwest Virginia and parts of West Virginia to quicklyget food to families in need.
• It has purchased and donated 138,982 pounds of fruits and vegetables.
• It has donated 55,965 pounds of seconds produce through its Healthy Families-Family Farms program.
• It has secured and donated over 2.2 million pounds of food from the USDA Family Food Box program.
Those who’d like to support the effort can make donations online at asdevelop.org or email email@example.com.
The latest COVID-19 numbers from the Tennessee Department of Health’s daily report for Sunday:
• 69 new deaths reported Sunday; 3,188 new cases reported Sunday.
• Pandemic totals are 6,512 deaths and 564,080 cases.
• 85% of case totals were listed as “inactive/recovered.”
• New deaths by age Sunday: 25 in the 81-plus group; 23 in the 71-80 group; 13 in the 61-70 group; six in the 51-60 group; and two in the 41-50 group.
• Eight new deaths and 228 new cases Sunday for the eight-county region.
New deaths by county: One in Hawkins County (53); three in Sullivan County (170); two in Washington County (155); two in Carter County (81).
No new deaths were reported in Johnson County (total 28); Hancock County (four); Greene County (88); Unicoi (38).
New cases by county: 80 in Washington; 36 in Greene; 24 in Carter; 50 in Sullivan; 24 in Hawkins; 12 in Unicoi; one in Johnson; and one in Hancock.
Active cases by county: 1,333 in Washington; 1,339 in Sullivan; 897 in Greene; 594 in Hawkins; 561 in Carter; 194 in Unicoi; 114 in Johnson; and 19 in Hancock.
Statewide: 18.14% of the 11,517 new test results reported Sunday by the Tennessee Department of Health.
Ballad Health: 24.4% over the past seven days, for the health system’s 21-county service area, including Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia.
Far Southwest Virginia’s daily COVID-19 cases passed 70, according to Sunday’s state data report.
The Virginia Department of Health (www.vdh.virginia.gov/coronavirus) said the LENOWISCO Health District reported 73 cases for totals of 4,654 and 114 deaths during the pandemic.
Wise County saw 35 cases for totals of 1,908 and 55 deaths. Scott County had 20 cases for 1,182 and 29 deaths.
Lee County had 13 cases for 1,409 and 29 deaths. Norton added five cases for 155 and one death.
The VDH reported 3,999 new cases and 14 deaths statewide in the prior 24 hours for pandemic totals of 333,576 cases and 4,854 deaths.
The statewide testing rate for people with nasal swab and antigen tests in Sunday’s VDH report was 4,936,182 of 8.63 million residents, or 57.2%. For nasal swab testing only, 4,149,987 people have been tested to date, or 48.1%. In the LENOWISCO district, 30,947 of the region’s 86,471 residents have been tested via nasal swab sample for COVID-19, or 35.79%.
The seven-day average rate of positive PCR test results in the LENOWISCO district in Sunday’s report rose from 22.1% to 24.2%. The statewide positivity rate rose from 12.1% to 12.2%.
Virginia Department of Corrections case information for Red Onion and Wallens Ridge state prisons and the Wise Correctional Center was not available.
According to Sunday’s VDH pandemic measures dashboard, daily case incidence in the far southwest region of Virginia — including the LENOWISCO Health District — were ranked as fluctuating after a 12-day drop in daily case rates. The far southwest region ranking for percent positivity of COVID-19 testing results was classed as decreasing based on a 21-day decrease in that measure.
All four school systems in the LENOWISCO district were ranked as highest-risk based on the 14-day case incidence rate in the district. For seven-day case incidence, Norton City schools were ranked highest-risk, Lee County Schools higher-risk, Wise County Schools lower-risk and Scott County Schools lowest-risk.
Do you think you might have COVID-19? Local health departments provide free testing.
The LENOWISCO Health Department, which covers Norton and Lee, Wise and Scott counties, posts regular updates on testing sites across the district and offers free COVID-19 tests at its county offices. Those seeking a test must call in advance for an appointment. Contact numbers for the county offices are:
• Lee County (Jonesville) — (276) 346-2011.
• Scott County (Gate City) — (276) 386-1312.
• Wise County and Norton (Wise) — (276) 328-8000.
Additional testing and COVID-19 precaution information can be found at the LENOWISCO Health District’s Facebook page: www.facebook.com/Lenowisco.
The Health Wagon will partner with the Virginia Department of Health to offer 17 sessions of free drive-thru testing at Food City in St. Paul through Dec. 31. Call (276) 328-8850 for an appointment.
In Southwest Virginia, online resources are available to help evaluate whether residents might be infected and where to get a COVID-19 test. The Virginia Department of Health’s COVIDCHECK (https://www.vdh.virginia.gov/coronavirus/covidcheck/) can walk users through symptoms they may be experiencing and help direct them to their local health department office or other available testing sites.