Updated at 6:02 a.m. Sunday
Anthony Warner, the man believed to be behind the Christmas morning explosion, died during the blast, law enforcement said Sunday afternoon after they matched DNA from the crime scene to the person they’ve been investigating.
Law enforcement say they pieced together evidence from many hours of surveillance video, from human remains found at the scene, and from a remnant of the recreational vehicle that had a vehicle identification number on it. The Tennessee Highway Patrol was able to confirm that the RV was registered to Warner.
“We’ve come to the conclusion that an individual named Anthony Warner is the bomber,” Donald Q. Cochran, the U.S. attorney for the Middle District of Tennessee, said at a news conference Sunday. “He was present when the bomb went off and that he perished in the bombing.”
This is video of Friday morning's explosion recorded by an MNPD camera at 2nd Ave N & Commerce St. pic.twitter.com/3vaXhoUOAR
— Metro Nashville PD (@MNPDNashville) December 28, 2020
The afternoon news conference was the first time officials used the word “bombing” to describe the incident.
Law enforcement continue to say that there is no indication anyone else is involved and that there are no known threats against the city.
Warner was unknown to law enforcement before the incident. An Antioch duplex that belonged to Warner until last month was searched for about five hours Saturday by agents from the FBI and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
Downtown Nashville is still closed to the public, but the restricted area could shrink by tomorrow evening as they wrap up processing of the blast scene.
Investigators have yet to identify a possible motive and are still working on collecting more information from people who knew the man.
The explosion left seven people injured. All were released from the hospital by the following day. More than 40 businesses in downtown Nashville were damaged.
Officers recount response to the scene
On Sunday morning, five of the six officers who were on the scene when the RV exploded shared their recollections of the lead-up and immediate aftermath of the blast.
It began when two officers responded to reports that shots had been fired in the area of Second Avenue North. They found no shell casings or other evidence of a shooting, but moments later, an announcement began blaring from the RV warning that it contained a bomb and people should evacuate.
They formed a blockade with their vehicles and began notifying residents of neighboring buildings. As they worked through the area, the RV began to a play a countdown interspersed with excerpts of the song “Downtown” by Petula Clark. One officer checked the RV for a license plate — he found none — and as time wound down, they moved to positions farther from the vehicle.
“And I just saw the biggest flames I’d ever seen, the biggest explosion,” Officer Amanda Topping says. “We just ducked into a doorway, because we didn’t know what was coming afterwards.”
Two officers say the force of the explosion was strong enough to throw them to the ground. One officer, James Wells, confirmed that he has suffered hearing loss but credits divine intervention for surviving.
“That was God. I’m not going to shy away from that,” he says. “That’s what saved my life. That’s what got me to see my wife and my kids on Christmas.”
A few hours after the press conference on Sunday afternoon, Rutherford County Sheriff’s Department deputies stopped a box truck that had been driving around Rutherford and Wilson counties “playing audio similar to the Christmas explosion in Nashville.”
They detained and later charged 33-year-old driver James Turgeon on felony counts of filing a false report and of tampering with evidence. A bomb squad did not find explosives in the truck.
WPLN’s Chas Sisk, Emily Siner and Ambriehl Crutchfield contributed to this story.