FBI at the home of a person who may be interested in the Nashville bombshell
Federal agents converged on the home of a person of interest to the explosion that rocked downtown Nashville on Saturday as investigators scanned hundreds of tips and leads in the blast that damaged dozens of buildings on Christmas morning.
More than 24 hours after the explosion, a motive remained elusive as investigators worked around the clock to resolve unanswered questions about an RV that exploded on a nearly deserted street on a sleepy vacation morning and was preceded by a recorded warning advising nearby to evacuate.
The attack, which damaged an AT&T T,
building, continued to wreak havoc on mobile phone service and police and hospital communications in several southern states on Saturday.
Investigators from several federal and local law enforcement agencies were at a house in Antioch, a suburb of Nashville, after receiving information relevant to the investigation, said FBI Special Agent Jason Pack. .
Another law enforcement official, who was not authorized to discuss an ongoing investigation and spoke to the Associated Press on condition of anonymity, said investigators considered someone associated with the property as a person of interest.
Federal agents could be seen looking around the property, searching the house and the backyard. A Google Maps image had shown a similar recreational vehicle parked in the backyard when the photo was taken in May 2019; an AP reporter at the scene did not see the vehicle on the property late Saturday afternoon.
There were other signs of progress in the investigation as the FBI revealed it was examining a number of individuals who may be linked to it. Officials also said no other explosive device was found, indicating no active threat to the area. Investigators received around 500 tips and leads.
“It’s just going to take us a while,” Douglas Korneski, the special agent in charge of the FBI’s field office in Memphis, said at a press conference on Saturday afternoon. “Our investigative team is turning every stone” to understand who did it and why.
Separately, the Federal Emergency Management Agency said in a report on Saturday that tissue samples found at the scene were considered human remains. Officials said they were working vigorously to identify who owned the remains. Beyond that, the only known casualties were three injured people.
Damage to infrastructure, meanwhile, was widely felt, due to an AT&T central office affected by the blast. Police emergency systems in Tennessee, Kentucky and Alabama, as well as the Nashville COVID-19 community hotline and a handful of hospital systems, have remained out of service.
The building contained a telephone exchange, with networking equipment, but the company declined to say exactly how many people were affected.
When asked if the AT&T building could have been a possible target, Korneski said, “We are looking at all possible motives that could be involved.”
Investigators shut down the heart of downtown Nashville’s tourist scene – an area teeming with honky-tonks, restaurants and shops – as they walked through broken glass and damaged buildings to learn more about the explosion.
Mayor John Cooper has imposed a curfew in the downtown area until Sunday by executive order to limit public access to the area. More than 40 buildings were affected.
AT&T said the restoration efforts face several challenges, including a fire that “reignited overnight and led to the building being evacuated.” This required their teams to work with safety and structural engineers and drill access holes in the building in order to reconnect the power.
“Our teams continue to work tirelessly on recovery efforts after yesterday morning’s explosion in Nashville,” the company said in a statement Saturday. “We have two mobile phone sites operating in downtown Nashville and many additional portable sites are being deployed in the Nashville area and the region.”
Ray Neville, President of Technology at T-Mobile TMUS,
said on Twitter that the service disruptions affected Louisville, Nashville, Knoxville, Birmingham and Atlanta. “We continue to see service disruptions in these areas after yesterday’s explosion. Restoration efforts continue around the clock and we will keep you posted on progress, ”he said in a tweet on Saturday.
The blackouts had even briefly ground flights at Nashville International Airport, but service continued as normal on Saturday. The Federal Aviation Association has since issued a temporary flight restriction around the airport, requiring pilots to follow strict procedures until December 30.
According to Metro Nashville Police Chief John Drake, officers responded to a report on Friday of gunfire when they encountered the camper van, saying a bomb would explode in 15 minutes. Police evacuated nearby buildings and called the demining team. The camper van exploded shortly after.