Updated 5:15 p.m. Central
Investigators have received more than 500 leads and tips related to Friday’s explosion in downtown Nashville, and at least one of them led the FBI to Bakertown Road in Antioch, where they searched a home Saturday from about 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
However, at a press conference Saturday afternoon, police declined to confirm, as some news outlets have reported, that investigators have identified a 63-year-old “person of interest” in connection with the recreational vehicle that blew up on 2nd Avenue North.
They do note that there’s no indication of additional bomb threats in the area or anywhere else in Nashville.
The property that agents are searching was the home of a man from December 1986 until Nov. 25 of this year, when property records show he transferred the deed for 115 Bakertown Road to a woman in Los Angeles. Several Google Maps images from recent years show an RV similar to the one identified by police parked in the yard and a driveway.
The home is more than 10 miles from downtown, where investigators are still combing a multi-block crime scene that has challenged law enforcement teams.
U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Tennessee Don Cochran compared it to a jigsaw puzzle scattered by a bomb that now needs to be put back together.
“We’ve had over 500 leads and tips come in and every single one of those is being followed up by a team of investigators. That’s the stage we’re at in this investigation. We are still continuing to follow every lead that we have. And we will continue to do so until we find out what’s happened,” Cochran said.
Investigators are starting with the outside of the perimeter and working their way in. And that process will take several more days.
The FBI is working with the behavioral analysis unit in Quantico, Va., to identify a possible motive. But they continue to caution that it’s going to take time.
Cochran also praised the work of Nashville police on Friday morning, including those who assisted the evacuation of residents before the blast.
Officials say six officers saved lives. The Metro Nashville Police Department has identified them as:
- Officer Brenna Hosey, who has been with the department for 4 years;
- Officer James Luellen, who has been with the department for 3 years;
- Officer Michael Sipos, who has been with the department for 16-months;
- Officer Amanda Topping, who has been with the department for 21 months;
- Officer James Wells, who has been with the department for 21-months; and
- Sergeant Timothy Miller, who has been with the department for 11 years.
Police Chief John Drake says roughly 40 buildings were damaged, and they have to be cleared by codes before people can return. And that can’t happen until investigators are finished.
Gov. Bill Lee, meanwhile, toured the area Saturday morning, calling it a “miracle” that no one was killed.
This morning I toured the site of the bombing. The damage is shocking and it is a miracle that no residents were killed. @MariaLeeTN and I continue to pray for those who sustained injuries from the blast.
— Gov. Bill Lee (@GovBillLee) December 26, 2020
Lee is asking the federal government to assist with its response and recovery, including debris removal and emergency protective measures. He cited the impact on AT&T communications across Tennessee, Kentucky and northern Alabama.
Downtown no-go zone continues
Meanwhile, a mass service outage for AT&T is ongoing. The company has posted updates online.
Fire Chief William Swann said he has been in contact with the company about restoring service.
“We’re trying to at least get the generators back in order so that the mobile phones will be back into operation. And then we’re hoping within the next day or, if we’re fortunate, it may take one or two days to get everything back online,” he said.
As of 4:50 p.m. Saturday, AT&T said it was restoring power to damaged facilities and had restored mobile service to the Lexington, Ky. area. And six additional portable cell sites are now running in Nashville.
A portion of downtown Nashville remains under a curfew that is blocking property owners and residents from entering. In the past day, even local elected officials have noted their surprise at how the rule was established and have heard from residents worried about running water continuing to damage their buildings and unaccounted for pets.
Mayor John Cooper acknowledged the difficulties on social media, noting that the impact area remained a federal investigation zone on Saturday.
Metro is directing those impacted to this specific help page on hub.Nashville.gov. City staffers are standing by to help.
I’m grateful for the continued efforts by @MNPDNashville, @NashvilleFD, and @NashvilleEOC. Here is a message from Chief Drake to downtown business owners and residents affected by the ongoing investigation. Please contact https://t.co/mxrVsqYPKn for further assistance. pic.twitter.com/F41vzXckdS
— Mayor John Cooper (@JohnCooper4Nash) December 26, 2020
“Please be patient with our efforts down here,” Police Chief John Drake says in a video. “They will collapse the scene as much as possible as soon as they can.”
We’ll be updating this post on Saturday as we learn more, so check back throughout the day.