Here’s what we know about the Nashville Christmas Day explosion

CNN  — 

An early morning explosion rocked Nashville on Christmas.

Authorities identified the suspect as Anthony Quinn Warner, 63, who died when his recreational vehicle exploded on 2nd Avenue North in the city’s downtown.

Despite police having a suspect, there are many unanswered questions. Perhaps chief among them: What was Warner’s motive?

Here’s what we know:

8 people were injured in the blast

Police said a boxy white RV arrived at 2nd Avenue North in downtown Nashville at 1:22 a.m. (2:22 a.m. ET) Friday. They later tweeted an image of the vehicle.

Several hours later, a resident in the area said she woke up to what sounded like “an automatic weapon.”

When she heard the sound again, she called 911. Police said they were called to the location after a report of shots fired around 5:30 a.m.

When officers responded to the scene, they found a white RV parked in front of an AT&T transmission building that was repeatedly broadcasting a warning that an explosion would occur in 15 minutes, police said.

A computerized voice warned residents to “evacuate now,” the resident recalled.

Nashville police officers involved in the response told reporters Sunday morning that the recording changed as they were working to evacuate residents from nearby buildings, eventually giving a three-minute warning, as well as playing the 1964 song “Downtown” by Petula Clark.

The blast occurred at 6:30 a.m.

Here’s a timeline of what happened that morning

The violence of the explosion was captured in a police surveillance video posted to Twitter on Sunday night.

The blast injured at least eight people and damaged more than 40 buildings, including an AT&T transmission facility that provides wireless service to much of the region. Officials say more people could have been hurt if it hadn’t been for the swift response of six police officers who evacuated residents.

Neighbors describe suspect as a hermit

Public records show Warner owned a home on Bakertown Road in Antioch until November 25, 2020, when he signed a quit claim deed giving ownership of the home to a woman. Antioch is about 12 miles southeast of downtown Nashville.

Warner deeded another property on Bakertown Road to the same woman in 2019, according to public records.

Nashville explosion surveillance video
Surveillance video shows moment of Nashville explosion
01:44 - Source: CNN

CNN has attempted to contact Warner’s family members.

Steve Schmoldt has lived next door to Warner since 2001, and Schmoldt’s wife has lived in the house since 1995.

“He’s lived there a long time and he sort of kept to himself,” Schmoldt told CNN of Warner. “All we knew him by was Tony. He was kind of a hermit.”

Rick Laude, one of Warner’s neighbors, told CNN on Monday he spoke with Warner right before Christmas.

“I said, ‘Hey, Anthony, is Santa going to bring you something good for Christmas?’” Laude said. “He said, ‘Yes, I’m going to be more famous. I’m going to be so famous Nashville will never forget me.’”

Laude said he thought Warner was referring to something good happening.

Anthony Quinn Warner is seen in this image tweeted by the FBI on Monday.

“I knew he did IT work and I took it as something positive,” he said.

Warner wasn’t on law enforcement’s radar, said David Rausch, director of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation.

Warner was issued an alarm contractor license in November 1993, which expired in 1998, according to Tennessee licensing records.

Steve Fridrich, of Fridrich & Clark LLC, said he hired Warner as a computer consultant for his real estate business as an independent contractor for several years. In a statement, he described Warner as a “nice person who never exhibited any behavior which was less than professional.” He said Warner told him he was retiring earlier this month.

Authorities went to a home after the explosion

Federal investigators were at Warner’s home Saturday conducting “court-authorized activity,” FBI spokesman Jason Pack told CNN.

Bomb technicians cleared the house to make sure it was safe for the evidence team to enter, Pack said, but he would not confirm who lives at that address.

FBI and ATF agents search a home in Antioch, Tennessee, on Saturday, December 26.

A tip about the RV involved in the explosion led authorities to the home, a law enforcement official told CNN.

An RV seen on Google Street View at the home appears to match the image of the one authorities posted when they asked the public for information about the vehicle. Investigators believe the RV seen in the photos is the same one at the center of the explosion, the law enforcement source said, but they can’t be certain because it was destroyed in the blast.

CNN’s analysis of Google Street View images indicates the RV has been around the property since at least April 2013.

Two neighbors told CNN they had definitely seen the RV that is pictured in the Google satellite photos. They said that while they haven’t been out much in the colder weather, they remember seeing it parked there during the summer.

Officials have not connected blast to terrorism

Investigators are looking at “any and all possible motives” in the bombing, said Douglas Korneski, FBI special agent in charge of the Memphis field office.

Korneski was asked about associates of Warner being questioned regarding Warner’s possible thoughts on telecommunications.

“We’re not at a position to speculate on that now,” Korneski said, adding they interviewed people who knew Warner or were familiar with his ideology.

Investigators examine the site of the explosion in downtown Nashville on Sunday, December 27.

The bombing has not been deemed an act of domestic terrorism because it would have to be tied to an ideology or committed in furtherance of a political or social ideology, Korneski said.

Officials haven’t connected the explosion in any way to terrorism, and according to one federal law enforcement source, there were no known credible threats in the Nashville area that would have signaled an impending attack on or before Christmas.

A second law enforcement source said federal authorities are not aware of any increased chatter nationally by known extremist groups that would indicate any credible plans for conducting attacks around the holidays.

While investigators continue gathering information on who may have been responsible for the explosion and why they did it, one expert says the blast likely wasn’t supposed to cause a mass killing.

“What makes this so perplexing is the fact that it doesn’t appear that the person or people who conspired to do this had any interest in causing any type of mass casualties,” said James Gagliano, a retired FBI supervisory special agent and CNN law enforcement analyst.

Mayor John Cooper said the explosion was “clearly done when no one was going to be around.”

“It would be a different message if it was 5 p.m. on a Friday,” the mayor said. “It seems intentional, but it seems like a one-off.”

AT&T says wireless service largely restored

AT&T, which said one of its network hubs was damaged in the explosion, said Sunday that wireless service in and around Nashville has largely been restored.

The network hub in downtown Nashville “suffered significant damage in the blast,” Jeff McElfresh, CEO of AT&T Communications, said in a letter to customers Sunday evening. AT&T was able to reroute some network traffic, but not all.

“Given its importance to customers and first responders, we prioritized restoration of wireless service,” McElfresh said. “As of now, 96% of our wireless network is restored, 60% of our business services are restored, and 86% of our consumer broadband and entertainment services are restored. It is our goal to restore all service late today.”

In the immediate aftermath of the blast, AT&T service in Nashville remained online, thanks to backup power supplies.

“Unfortunately, a combination of the explosion and resulting water and fire damage took out a number of backup power generators intended to provide power to the batteries,” McElfresh said. “That led to service disruptions across parts of Tennessee, Kentucky and Alabama.”

When one network hub is disrupted, typically by a hurricane or other natural disaster, some internet traffic can be rerouted, but not all – and that’s why customers across Nashville and other parts of the state reported losing wireless phone service and other connectivity.

An AT&T spokesman declined to comment on speculation that its facility may have been the target of the suspected suicide bomber.

CNN’s parent company, WarnerMedia, is owned by AT&T.

Correction: An earlier version of this story wrongly identified the source who told CNN that a tip about the RV led officials to the home of a person of interest. That information is from a law enforcement official. A previous version of this story also incorrectly reported Warner held an explosive user handler license. He held only an alarm contractor license.

CNN’s Christina Maxouris, Hollie Silverman, Natasha Chen, Margaret Given, Kay Jones, Eric Levenson, Paul P. Murphy, Evan Perez, Shimon Prokupecz, Hollie Silverman, Kayte Steinmetz and Brian Stelter contributed to this report.