Authorities examine Nashville bomber’s records, hunt for motive of attack

Tennessee authorities on Sunday identified a person responsible for the Christmas Day explosion in downtown Nashville that rocked the city following what officials have dubbed its “hardest year.”

Using DNA evidence, federal authorities said Anthony Quinn Warner was responsible for the bombing and investigators believe the 63-year-old Nashville man died in the explosion. Officials said they do not believe anyone else was involved in the incident.

Three people were injured during the Friday explosion but are in stable condition. The officers who were injured at the blast site are recovering, officials said.

The blast originated from an RV outside an AT&T building on Second Avenue, a strip of shops and businesses at the heart of Nashville‘s tourist area. Smoke billowed from the area earlier on Friday and glass shattered in several buildings.

“Initial evidence does show that the early morning explosion was a deliberate bomb set off in our community and the blast caused injuries and catastrophic damage to this very historic part of Nashville,” said Nashville Mayor John Cooper.

Authorities attributed the low casualty count to the swift efforts of six police officers who evacuated the area after they found a suspicious RV with a recorded warning that a bomb would go off in minutes.

“This is going to tie us together forever, for the rest of my life,” Officer James Wells, who suffered some hearing loss from the explosion, said during a news conference Sunday. “Christmas will never be the same.

“I just see orange and then I hear a loud boom,” Officer Wells said tearfully. “As I’m stumbling around, I just tell myself to stay on my feet and to stay alive.”

Officer Amanda Topping initially parked her car beside the RV when she responded to the suspicious vehicle call.

“I felt the waves of heat but I kind of just lost it and started sprinting toward [Officer Wells],” she said of the explosion.

The man identified as the suspected bomber was a longtime Nashville resident who worked in various IT jobs, and most recently worked as an independent computer technician for real estate firm Fridrich & Clark, according to public records.

“As far as we knew, he was kind of a computer geek that worked at home,” Steve Schmoldt, a neighbor, told the Nashville newspaper, the Tennessean.

“You never saw anyone come and go,” Mr. Schmoldt told the publication, describing his decades-long neighbor as “kind of low key to the point of, I don’t know, I guess some people would say he’s a little odd.”

A law enforcement official told The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity that federal investigators have started examining the suspect’s digital footprint and financial history. They are also examining a recent deed transfer of a home in suburban Nashville.

The official said forensic analysts are reviewing evidence collected from the blast site to try to identify the components of the explosives and are also reviewing information from the U.S. Bomb Data Center for intelligence and investigative leads.

AT&T quickly reported outages related to the explosion and said Sunday that it has been rerouting service to other facilities as the company works to restore a building that sustained heavy damage from the blast.

The company said power has been restored to four of the building’s floors. Three feet of water was pumped out of the building’s basement on Saturday, but access to the lower floors is still limited. Elevators, beams and columns and the building’s facade were also damaged.

Federal agents are examining a number of potential leads and pursuing several theories, including the possibility that an AT&T building was targeted. The bomb caused damage that affected communications in several states.

The blast also damaged other buildings in the area, with the Nashville Fire Department still trying to determine which are structurally sound.

“It will be some time before Second Avenue is back. It is not going to be the three days of the curfew,” Mr. Cooper said. “We’re not going to rest until those responsible for this outrageous and cowardly attacks are brought to justice.”

Nashville Police Chief John Drake explained earlier on Friday officers were responding to a report of shots fired in the area early in the morning when they found the suspicious RV with a recorded warning a bomb would go off in minutes. They were evacuating residents and waiting for the hazardous devices unit when the bomb went off.

The warning blared: “Evacuate now. There is a bomb. A bomb is in this vehicle and will explode.”

Police said the speaker also played the 1963 song “Downtown” by Petula Clark in the moments leading up to the blast.

A spokesman for Acting Attorney General Jeff Rosen said he was briefed on the incident this morning and directed that “all DOJ resources be made available” to assist in the investigation.

⦁ Gabriella Muñoz contributed to this story, which is based in part on wire service reports.

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