Jami Ganz and Joe Erwin
New York Daily News
A recreational vehicle blew up in Nashville, Tennessee, early Christmas morning, damaging multiple buildings in the downtown area — after a chilling recording from the RV warned people to evacuate.
Police were responding to a report of shots fired when they found the vehicle playing a recording saying a bomb would go off in 15 minutes, Metro Nashville Police Chief John Drake said. Police evacuated nearby buildings and called in the bomb squad.
“Shortly after that, the RV exploded,” Drake said.
The blast occurred at 6:29 a.m. local time Friday.
Three people have been taken to the hospital for injuries that were not said to be critical, according to Nashville Fire Department spokesmanJoseph Pleasant.
The surrounding area remains shut down as the blast is investigated.
Communications in Nashville were interrupted for parts of Christmas morning because the RV blew up right in front of an AT&T building. The communication disruption temporarily grounded flights at Nashville International Airport.
“It looks like a bomb went off,” said Mayor John Cooper when he surveyed the damage, which affected at least41 businesses.
Speaking to reporters, the mayor said that people who might seek out attention sometimes think they can get it in the city or these types of acts.
“It’s not just New York and Los Angeles, it can be Nashville too,” he said. “This feels a little bit like a tragedy, you hate to use that word. … It was clearly done when nobody was going to be around. … It would be a different message if it was 5 p.m. on a Friday.”
Cooper added that “mental health obviously becomes a concern and consideration” but stipulated, “We shouldn’t jump to conclusions.
“It’s been quite a year. Adding (an) explosion to the list … just seems so 2020.”
Police spokesman Don Aaron told reporters that authorities received calls of shots fired in the area before the explosion took place. Though officers did not see evidence of shots fired, they did find the suspicious vehicle outside the AT&T building and called in the bomb squad.
Investigators have not yet determined a motive. The vehicle exploded while the bomb squad was responding, and it is not known whether anybody was inside at the time of the “significant explosion.”
“This appears to have been an intentional act. Law enforcement is closing down-town streets as investigation continues,” the Metro Nashville Police Department said.
Nashville police chief John Drake said Friday afternoon there were no known fatalities but “tissue” was found at the scene that could be human remains.
Though there is currently no indication of a secondary device, explosive- detection dogs were searching the area “out of an abundance of caution.”
“The immediate downtown area has been sealed off by law enforcement as we conduct this investigation,” which Aaron said is being conducted by the FBI; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and the Metro Police Department.
Downtown buildings, particularly those on Second Avenue North, were being searched for people possibly still inside.
The blast “knocked one of our officers to the ground. Thankfully, no officers were significantly hurt,” said Aaron, who noted that one officer sustained what “we hope is temporary hearing loss.”
Some people were taken to the local precinct for questioning.
At a news conference Friday afternoon, Aaron said authorities knew of “no imminent danger to the city at this point.”
He confirmed reports that warning announcements were coming from the RV before it exploded.
Deutsche Presse-Agentur contributed to this report.