Man suspected in Nashville Christmas Day bombing died in explosion, authorities say

NASHVILLE -- The man believed to be responsible for the Christmas Day bombing that tore through downtown Nashville blew himself up in the explosion, and appears to have acted alone, federal officials said Sunday.

Investigators used DNA and other evidence to link the man, identified as 63-year-old Anthony Quinn Warner, to the mysterious explosion but said they have not determined a motive. Officials have received hundreds of tips and leads, but have concluded that no one other than Warner is believed to have been involved in the early morning explosion that damaged dozens of buildings.

The FBI released a picture of Warner on Sunday night. The agency said it is still interested in information about him.



"We're still following leads, but right now there is no indication that any other persons were involved," said Douglas Korneski, special agent in charge of the FBI's Memphis field office. "We've reviewed hours of security video surrounding the recreation vehicle. We saw no other people involved."

In publicly identifying the suspect and his fate, officials disclosed a major breakthrough in their investigation even as they acknowledged the lingering mystery behind the explosion, which 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.

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Federal authorities identified on Sunday the man they say is responsible for the Christmas Day bombing and said that he died in the explosion.



No motive was disclosed by investigators nor was it revealed why Warner had selected the particular location for the bombing, which damaged an AT&T building and has continued to wreak havoc on cellphone service and police and hospital communications in several Southern states as the company worked to restore service.

Multiple law enforcement sources told ABC News that investigators are looking seriously at whether Warner may have been motivated, at least in part, by paranoia over 5G cellular technology.

The sources, however, caution that Warner's alleged paranoia may have extended beyond that to include a range of things, including the existence of life in outer space

WATCH | Police camera shows moment downtown Nashville bomb goes off
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Metro Nashville PD traffic camera at the intersection of 2nd Ave. N & Commerce St. captured a video showing the moment the explosion occurred on Christmas Day.



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 linked to the bombing since at least Saturday when federal and local investigators converged on a home in suburban Nashville 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 an RV 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.

WATCH | Video shows the aftermath of the explosion:
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Video from the scene shows the aftermath of a possible explosion in downtown Nashville on Christmas morning.



On Sunday morning, police formally named Warner as being under investigation.

Officials said their identification of Warner involved several key pieces of evidence, including DNA found at the explosion site. Investigators from the Tennessee Highway Patrol also recovered parts from the recreational vehicle where the bomb was detonated 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.

Authorities in Tennessee also shut down a road east of Nashville for hours Sunday after stopping a box truck that they said had been playing audio "similar to what was heard" before a recreational vehicle exploded in downtown Nashville on Christmas Day.

The Rutherford County Sheriff's Office says on Twitter that law enforcement officials had shut down a section of highway in Wilson County, just east of Nashville, on Sunday to investigate a white box truck parked on the side of the road. Authorities had sent out a robot to investigate the vehicle as officials stood far back, monitoring the situation.



Sheriff's officials said the truck had been playing the audio when it was parked at a convenience store around 10:30 a.m. at the Crossroads Market in Walter Hill. The driver left the parking lot and was pulled over by deputies in nearby Wilson County. Officials said the driver has been detained by law enforcement.

A Wilson County dispatcher said the road that was shut down was Murfreesboro Road between Cedar Forest Road and Richmond Shop Road.

Deputies said they had also evacuated residents in the area as they continued to investigate.

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Before the RV blew up, it blared a recorded warning calling for people to evacuate, and then the 1964 song "Downtown" by Petula Clark. Sheriff's officials did not specify what the box truck was playing.

Police officers on Sunday provided harrowing details of responding to a Christmas morning explosion in downtown Nashville, at times getting choked up reliving the moments that led up to the blast and offering gratitude that they were still alive.

"This is going to tie us together forever, for the rest of my life," Officer James Wells, who suffered some hearing loss due to the explosion, told a news conference. "Christmas will never be the same."



The five responding officers gave their accounts of what happened to reporters while investigators continued to chip away at the motive of the bombing of a recreational vehicle that blew up on a mostly deserted street just before it issued a recorded warning advising people nearby to evacuate.

"I just see orange and then I hear a loud boom. As I'm stumbling around, I just tell myself to stay on my feet and to stay alive," Wells said, at times tearing up and repeating that he believed he heard God tell him to walk away moments before the blast.

Officer Amanda Topping said she initially parked their police car beside the RV while responding to the call before moving it once they heard the recording playing. Topping said she called her wife to let her know that "things were just really strange" as she helped guide people away from the RV.

That's when she heard the announcement from the RV switch from a warning to playing the 1964 hit "Downtown" by Petula Clark. Moments later the explosion hit.

"I felt the waves of heat but I kind of just lost it and started sprinting toward (Wells)," Topping said. "I've never grabbed someone so hard in my life."

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 knocking on a door where a startled mother of four children answered.

"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.



The infrastructure damage, meanwhile, was broadly felt, due to an AT&T central office being affected by the blast. Police emergency systems in Tennessee, Kentucky and Alabama, as well as Nashville's COVID-19 community hot line and a handful of hospital systems, remained out of service.

The building contained a telephone exchange, with network equipment in it - but the company has declined to say exactly how many people have been impacted.

Asked whether the AT&T building could have been a possible target, Korneski said: "We're looking at every possible motive that could be involved."

Investigators shut down the heart of downtown Nashville's tourist scene - an area packed with honky-tonks, restaurants and shops - as they shuffled through broken glass and damaged buildings to learn more about the explosion.

AT&T said Sunday it was rerouting service to other facilities as the company worked to restore its heavily damaged building. The company said in a statement that it was bringing in resources to help recover affected voice and data services and expects to have 24 additional trailers of disaster recovery equipment at the site by the end of the day.

Restoration efforts faced several challenges, which included a fire that forced their teams to work with safety and structural engineers and drilling access holes into the building in order to reconnect power.

Ray Neville, president of technology at T-Mobile, said on Twitter Saturday that service disruptions affected Louisville, Nashville, Knoxville, Birmingham and Atlanta.

The Federal Aviation Administration has since issued a temporary flight restriction around the airport, requiring pilots to follow strict procedures until Dec. 30.

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