The six police officers who rushed to evacuate Nashville residents before a bomb-rigged RV exploded in the early hours of Christmas morning have been heralded as heroes for potentially saved lives with their quick actions.
They were named by Metro Police Chief John Drake as Officer Brenna Hosey, Officer James Luellen, Officer Michael Sipos, Officer Amanda Topping, Officer James Wells and Sergeant Timothy Miller, as he praised them for rushing into danger to save others.
The officers had been responding to reports of shots fired 40 minutes before the explosion when they found an RV located outside of an AT&T transmission building which was playing an announcement featuring a woman’s voice saying it would explode in 15 minutes.
There was no evidence of shooting at the scene and it is not known of the sounds could also have come from the RV’s recording. Cops have not revealed who made the initial shooting report.
They rushed to get people out of their homes while the ominous, pre-recorded message played over and over again with music playing inbetween each countdown, before the van eventually exploded at round 6.40am.
‘These officers didn’t care about themselves,’ Chief Drake said. ‘They didn’t think about that. They cared about the citizens of Nashville. They went in and we’d be talking not about the debris that we have here but potential people.’
In a press briefing on Friday night, Drake also confirmed that police have found tissue that could potentially be human remains near the bomb site.
He gave no further details on the discovery repeating that there were still no known casualties but that the tissue is being examined.
Law enforcement officers had earlier said remains were found near the bomb site but did not indicate whether they were directly linked to the explosion, whether they could belong to the person responsible or a potential victim.
AT&T are also continuing to investigate as they work to repair internet and cell phone outages caused by the blast that had impacted 911 and emergency phone systems, and temporarily shut down flights from Nashville International Airport.
In this photo from the Metro Nashville Police Department, a motorhome, that later exploded in Nashville, Tennessee on December 25, 2020, is seen driving down a street. It is shown at 1.22am on Thursday. It was detonated on Friday at 6.40am
The blast turned the camera white for several seconds while car alarms sounded and windows smashed
The blast caused widespread outages with issues being reports across Kentucky and Tennesse at around noon local time.
It’s unclear if the AT&T building was the target of the bomb but the vehicle was parked outside it. There are also bars, restaurants and apartments nearby which had not yet opened.
‘Power is essential to restoring wireless and wireline communications and we are working with law enforcement to get access to our equipment and make needed repairs,’ AT&T said in a statement at 5pm.
‘Given the damage to our facility it will take time to restore service. We have already rerouted significant traffic from this facility and are bringing in other equipment, including numerous portable cell sites to the area.
‘There are serious logistical challenges to working in a disaster area and we will make measurable progress in the hours and days ahead,’ the company. ‘We’re grateful for the work of law enforcement as they investigate this event while enabling us to restore service for our customers.’
When it exploded, the bomb was inside an RV on Second Avenue, between Church and Commerce Street.
The FBI is investigating but so far no suspect or motive has been identified. Police do not even know if someone was inside the RV when it blew up because the blast was so intense that it was completely obliterated along with everything inside of it.
Three people were taken to the hospital with non-serious injuries.
On Friday evening, Nashville Mayor John Cooper announced curfew on the area around the bomb site as the investigation continues.
It is impossible to make out the driver of the RV from the grainy surveillance footage taken on Thursday night
Newly obtained security camera footage shows the moments before the bomb detonated on Friday morning in downtown Nashville
The aftermath shows damage in the streets. The camera was not directly at the blast site – it would have been destroyed
Emergency personnel work near the scene of an explosion in downtown Nashville, Tenn., Friday, Dec. 25, 2020
This is what is left of Second Avenue in downtown Nashville after the explosion on Friday morning. Police have not yet identified a suspect
An aerial view of the scene in downtown Nashville on Friday morning after an ‘intentional’ explosion came from a parked car
The scale of the debris was enormous. All of 2nd Avenue between The entire street on second avenue was covered with it
On Friday, Nashville Mayor John Cooper announced curfew on the area around the bomb site as the investigation continues
‘A curfew will start at 4:30pm, Friday Dec 25. and be lifted Sunday, December 27 at 4:30pm,’ he revealed in a tweet.
He also thanked the responding officers who he praised as heroes.
‘They ran to danger with uncertain outcomes ahead of them; they were responsible for so many innocents being saved,’ Cooper said.
He later added that 41 separate businesses had been affected by the blast and the structures of some of the older buildings in the area had been effected.
Tennesse governori Bill Lee has also been called on to declare the incident a civil emergency to help with the rebuild effort.
‘It will be some time until Second Ave is back to normal,’ Cooper said.
6AM: Someone places a 911 call reporting shots fired in the downtown Nashville area
Cops descend on the scene and see no one shot but they do encounter the RV
They immediately call the bomb squad and start evacuating people from nearby buildings
6.40AM: The bomb detonates, sending glass and metal scattering through the streets, damaging buildings and blowing up other cars
At an earlier press conference shortly before 10am, police spokesman Don Aaron said it was an ‘intentional act’ but he did not give any information about potential suspects or motives.
‘We do not know whether anyone was in the RV when it exploded. I can’t tell you if there’s a potential for that scenario,’ police spokesman Don Aaron said at a press conference on Friday afternoon.
Mayor Cooper said after surveying the scene that it ‘looks like a bomb went off’.
The area has now been sealed off while police comb the area.
‘The explosion was significant as you can see from the street.
‘The police department, it’s partners, the FBI and ATF are conducting a large scale investigation.
‘We do believe the explosion was an intentional act,’ Aaron said.
In a later update, he said: ‘A number of our police dogs have been called ad are searching the area.
‘These are explosive detection dogs to make sure there are no secondary devices, out of an abundance of caution. We’re also going to be conducting searches of downtown buildings to make sure there’s no one in need of help.’
FBI Special Agent in charge Matt Foster made a plea to the public for information.
‘The FBI stands with the city of Nashville today in this very tragic Christmas Day event.
‘This is our city too. We live here, we work here. We’re putting everything we have into finding who was responsible for what happened here today.
‘There are leads that need to be pursued and technical works need to happen.’
Anyone with information about the incident has been asked to contact the FBI at www.fbi.gov/nashville or by calling them.
On Friday night, star of CNBC’s The Profit Marcus Lemonis also offered a $250,000 reward for information that leads to the arrest and conviction of the culprit.
It brought the reward total to $300,000 after previous smaller reward offers from Nashville Convention and Visitors Corp., FOX Sports host Clay Travis, and Lewis Country Store.
This was the scene in downtown Nashville on Friday morning after a parked vehicle exploded
This was the scene immediately after the explosion on Friday morning in downtown Nashville
Emergency personnel work near the scene of an explosion in downtown Nashville, Tenn., Friday, Dec. 25, 2020
A law enforcement member walks past damage from an explosion in downtown Nashville, Tenn., Friday, Dec. 25, 2020
A K-9 team works in the area of an explosion in downtown Nashville, Tenn., Friday, Dec. 25, 2020. Buildings shook in the immediate area and beyond after a loud boom was heard early Christmas morning
A vehicle burns near the site of an explosion in the area of Second and Commerce in Nashville, Tennessee, U.S. December 25, 2020. It’s unclear if this was the vehicle that caused the blast or not
Emergency personnel work at the scene of an explosion in downtown Nashville, Tenn., Friday, Dec. 25, 2020
The explosion sent thick plumes of smoke which cut through the skyline for hours after the blast on Friday
Emergency personnel work at the scene of an explosion in downtown Nashville, Tennessee, in the immediate area and beyond after a loud boom was heard early Christmas morning
‘If you know anything about what has happened, we’d appreciate your help.
‘Please tell us what you know – we need your help,’ Foster said.
He revealed that police started evacuating people from the area before the explosion.
It’s unclear who called the police to report the gunshots or if they may have been a part of the recording playing from the van. Police heard the announcement being played from the vehicle when they arrived and immediately began to evacuate.
Their actions were commended by Mayor Cooper who said they resulted in ‘so many injuries being saved’.
Residents reporting feeling the ground shake ten blocks away.
The blast caused damage to downtown buildings like broken windows, but no injuries have been reported and no serious harm was caused.
‘There is an incident involving an explosion. This is an active scene. Metro Nashville Police Department and Nashville Fire Department are on the scene.
‘There are no additional details to provide at this time,’ the Nashville Fire Department said in a statement.
Within minutes of the blast, social media lit up with people reporting that they felt it and the ground ‘shaking’.
Other videos emerged of small, break-out fires and people screaming in the street but miraculously no one has been seriously injured.
Mayor Cooper said he believes the fact it was Christmas Day means there were fewer casualties.
Speaking with assembled media later in the morning, mayor John Cooper said the area was filled with ‘a lot of broken glass and insulation that has been blown up into trees’.
He added that broken mains were sending water flooding out into the street.
‘It looks like a bomb went off,’ he said.
Cooper claimed the city’s Downtown area was quieter on Christmas morning than on other days as most residents were still asleep and were not headed out to work.
He believed that helped minimize the number of people left injured in the blast.
The FAA temporarily halted flights at Nahsville’s main airport after the telecommunications issue was reported although they expected the issue to be resolved by 3pm CT.
Yet as of 4pm CT, the airport was still being impacted by the issues and announced that they were forced to keep some flight corriders closed for a little longer.
According to Fox News, AT&T said that the blast damaged the central office of the telephone exchange that contained network equipment.
The damage and outages caused were not immediately clear but disruptions were reported across parts of Kentucky and Tennessee.
Several police departments said that the phone outages had caused trouble with their 911 system.
Debris scattered a near the scene of an explosion in downtown Nashville, Tenn., Friday, Dec. 25, 2020. Buildings shook in the immediate area and beyond after a loud boom was heard early Christmas morning
A building is damaged near the area where an explosion was reported on Friday, Dec. 25, 2020 in Nashville, Tenn. Buildings shook in the immediate area and beyond after a loud boom was heard early Christmas morning
Smoke rises from downtown after a reported explosion on Friday, Dec. 25, 2020 in Nashville, Tenn. Buildings shook in the immediate area and beyond after a loud boom was heard early Christmas morning
Sniffer dogs are now combing the area to look for any additional explosives
Cops with sniffer dogs in downtown Nashville on Friday morning after the explosion. They have not yet narrowed down what kind of device it was
Rocket Fizz, a candy store on Second Avenue, had its store fronts blown out by the explosion
In this photo from the Twitter page of the Nashville Fire Department, Firemen stand near damage on a street after an explosion in Nashville, Tennessee on December 25, 2020
This was the scene immediately after the explosion in downtown Nashville on Friday morning
This was the scene in downtown Nashville on Friday morning after a parked vehicle exploded at 6.40am
The Nashville Fire Department tweeted this photo of the aftermath of the explosion on Friday morning as they asked people to stay away from the area
Many of the businesses on Commerce Street had their windows blown out by the explosion
An aerial view of the aftermath of the explosion on Friday morning