This story has been updated.
A massive explosion tore through downtown Nashville and the entertainment district along 2nd street near lower Broadway on Christmas morning (12-25). Police are a calling the explosion an “intentional act” after responding to a suspicious recreational vehicle parked in the area, as well as shots fired.
Metro Nashville police responded to reports of the RV parked in front of an AT&T building right before 6:00 a.m., as well as reports of gunshots in the area Friday morning. The vehicle was reportedly broadcasting, “Evacuate now. There is a bomb. A bomb is in this vehicle and will explode,” and then started a 15-minute countdown. Nashville police called the department’s hazardous devices unit, who was en route to the scene when the explosion happened at about 6:30 a.m. near Commerce and 2nd Ave.
The RV had been parked in the area since late Thursday night. Witnesses said they first heard rapid gunshots at 4:30 in the morning, and called police, The Tennessean is reporting. The force of the explosion resulted in a “huge fireball” according to witnesses, severely damaged multiple buildings and businesses in the area, knocked one responding officer to the ground, and three other individuals were seriously injured and transported to the hospital.
Most businesses in the area were closed for the Christmas holiday, but multiple apartments and residencies in the area were also affected by the explosion, with residents being shaken out of bed by the blast that took out windows and caused other damage. The explosion could be heard miles away, and according to Nashville Mayor John Cooper, about 20 buildings received major damage in the event. At least 41 buildings have received some damage due to the explosion.
Photos and video from the area show the narrow 2nd Street corridor—which normally sees a high volume to pedestrian and tourist traffic—with scorched storefronts, burned trees, and blown out windows. The block running from Broadway to Commerce St. on 2nd Ave. is home to The George Jones Museum, The Wildhorse Saloon owned by Ryman Hospitality (The Grand Ole Opry, Ryman Auditorium), BB King’s Blues Club, Coyote Ugly, Benchmark, Big Shotz, and Leon’s Candy store, among other businesses.
No word on the severity of damage at these businesses at this time, though many of the establishments are in historic brick buildings that appear to have withstood the explosion, while others had major damage. Many of the businesses in the area are temporarily closed or working with limited capacity due to COVID-19. The event also caused disruption in AT&T service in the area, as well as 911 service, and flights out of BNA Airport in Nashville were halted temporarily due to telecommunications issues.
The explosion is currently being investigated, with multiple federal agencies on scene aiding the local bomb squad. President Trump has been briefed about the explosion as well. Affected streets are being blocked off by police, and individuals are asked to avoid the area.
Update 12/26/2020 3:00 p.m. CST: A “person of interest” named Anthony Quinn Warner is being sought in connection with the blast after neighbors reported the Antioch, TN resident had an RV similar to the one used in the bombing parked on his property. Local and federal agencies conducted a search of his property on Saturday, but no arrests have been made. Authorities are also working to see if the remains found at the blast site are Mr. Warner.
More information when it becomes available.