After naming Nashville Christmas Day bombing suspect, focus turns to motive

Investigators walk near the scene of an explosion Saturday, Dec. 26, 2020, in Nashville, Tenn. The explosion that shook the largely deserted streets of downtown Nashville early Christmas morning shattered windows, damaged buildings and left several people wounded. Authorities said they believed the blast was intentional. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)Investigators walk near the scene of an explosion Saturday, Dec. 26, 2020, in Nashville, Tenn. The explosion that shook the largely deserted streets of downtown Nashville early Christmas morning shattered windows, damaged buildings and left several people wounded. Authorities said they believed the blast was intentional. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
Nashville Police officers Brenna Hosey, left, and James Wells embrace after speaking at a news conference Sunday, Dec. 27, 2020, in Nashville, Tenn. The two officers are part of a group of officers credited with evacuating people before an explosion took place in downtown Nashville early Christmas morning. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)Nashville Police officers Brenna Hosey, left, and James Wells embrace after speaking at a news conference Sunday, Dec. 27, 2020, in Nashville, Tenn. The two officers are part of a group of officers credited with evacuating people before an explosion took place in downtown Nashville early Christmas morning. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

With federal officials having identified the man believed to be behind Nashville’s Christmas Day bombing, authorities now turn to the monumental task of piecing together the motive behind the explosion that severely damaged dozens of downtown buildings and injured three people.

While officials on Sunday named Anthony Quinn Warner, 63, as the man behind the mysterious explosion in which he was killed, the motive has remained elusive.

“We hope to get an answer. Sometimes, it’s just not possible,” David Rausch, the director of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation said in a Monday interview on TODAY. “The best way to find motive is to talk to the individual. We will not be able to do that in this case.”

In just a few days, hundreds of tips and leads have been submitted to law enforcement agencies. Yet thus far, officials have not provided information on what possibly drove Warner to set off the explosion. According to officials, he had not been on the radar before Christmas.

“It does appear that the intent was more destruction than death but again that’s all still speculation at this point as we continue in our investigation with all our partners,” Rausch added.

Furthermore, officials have not provided insight into why Warner selected the particular location for the bombing, which damaged an AT&T building and continued to wreak havoc on cellphone service and police and hospital communications in several Southern states as the company worked to restore service.

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 a suburban Nashville home they searched.

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.

The bombing 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.

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 the home 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,” Korneski said. “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 “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.

But on Sunday, just blocks from where the bombing took place, tourists had already begun to fill the sidewalks 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,” Metro Nashville police 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.

___

Balsamo and Tucker reported from Washington. Associated Press journalists Scott Stroud and Mark Humphrey in Nashville contributed to this report.

Kimberlee Kruesi, Michael Balsamo And Eric Tucker, The Associated Press

USA

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw announced 16 additional deaths Thursday. (Photo by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
No easing of Alberta’s COVID-19 measures Thursday, 678 new COVID-19 cases

The province also hit 1,500 COVID-19 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic

World Juniors’ referee Mike Langin makes a called during the Canada vs. Slovakia at the 2021 World Junior Championship at Rogers Place in Edmonton, Dec. 27, 2020. (Photo by Matthew Murnaghan/Hockey Canada)
Former Sylvan Lake man lives his dream at World Junior Championships

Mike Langin was one the 25 Canadian officials who worked during the tournament

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said the Canadian government should consider sanctions on the U.S. if they refuse to reconsider the decision to cancel the Keystone XL Pipeline. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Keystone XL officially cancelled, Kenney vows to fight on

U.S. President Joe Biden cancelled the presidential permit for the pipeline on first day of office

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw said province’s test positivity rate for COVID-19 is steadily declining. (Photo by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
669 new COVID-19 cases in Alberta, 21 additional deaths

COVID-19 test positivity rate down to 4.5 per cent

Alberta Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw reported an additional 456 COVID-19 cases over the past 24 hours. (photography by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
Five new COVID-19 deaths in Central zone, two in Red Deer

Province reports 456 new cases of COVID-19

A scene from “Canada and the Gulf War: In their own words,” a video by The Memory Project, a program of Historica Canada, is shown in this undated illustration. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO - Historica Canada
New video marks Canada’s contributions to first Gulf War on 30th anniversary

Veterans Affairs Canada says around 4,500 Canadian military personnel served during the war

Gov. Gen. Julie Payette takes the royal salute from the Guard of Honour as she makes her way deliver the the throne speech, Wednesday, September 23, 2020 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Fred Chartrand
Gov. Gen. Julie Payette resigns, apologizes for ‘tensions’ at Rideau Hall

Payette, who is the Queen’s representative in Canada, has been the governor general since 2017

Grounded WestJet Boeing 737 Max aircraft are shown at the airline’s facilities in Calgary, Alta., Tuesday, May 7, 2019. WestJet will operate the first commercial Boeing 737 Max flight in Canada today since the aircraft was grounded in 2019 following two deadly crashes. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Passengers unfazed as WestJet returns Boeing 737 Max to service on Calgary flight

After a lengthy review process, Transport Canada cleared the plane to return to Canadian airspace

(Photo submitted)
Community Futures brings back Social Media Challenge for 2021

This time the challenge is for non-profits and community groups

Lucas Berg, left, with the backpacks filled with essential items he donated to the Red Deer Mustard Seed Jan. 19, 2021. (Photo submitted)
Central Alberta teenager donates filled 20 backpacks to Red Deer Mustard Seed

Lucas Berg, 14, of Ponoka County says he ‘just wants to help people’

A conveyor belt transports coal at the Westmoreland Coal Co.’s Sheerness mine near Hanna, Alta., on Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2016. Coal mining impacts are already occurring in Alberta’s Rocky Mountains even as debate intensifies over the industry’s presence in one of the province’s most beloved landscapes. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
As Alberta debates coal mining, industry already affecting once-protected Rockies

UCP revoked a policy that had protected eastern slopes of the Rockies from open-pit coal mining since 1976

In this Dec. 18, 2020 photo, pipes to be used for the Keystone XL pipeline are stored in a field near Dorchester, Neb. TC Energy Corp. is planning to eliminate more than 1,000 construction jobs related to its decision to halt work on its Keystone XL pipeline expansion project. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Machian /Omaha World-Herald via AP
TC Energy cutting more than 1,000 Keystone XL construction jobs as Biden pulls permit

Some 200 kilometres of pipe have already been installed for the expansion

Kyla Gibson with her boyfriend Gavin Hardy. (Photo used with permission)
Sylvan Lake couple lose ‘fur babies’ to house fire

‘They were our world and nothing will ever replace them,’ Kyla Gibson said of her three pets

Most Read