There’s a lot we don’t know yet about the explosion that shattered windows, damaged buildings and rattled the city awake on Christmas morning: namely, who did it, how they did it, and why.
But here’s what we know so far, as of 10:30 a.m. Saturday, as law enforcement begin their second day of the investigation.
- The timeline: Five hours elapsed between the RV’s appearance on Second Avenue and its explosion.
The recreational vehicle that later exploded parked along Second Avenue North at 1:22 a.m. Friday morning, according to police. About four hours later, police received a call of shots fired. It’s still unclear who called that in.
At some point during the next hour, police responded to the call, and the RV started announcing a message to evacuate the area. Police say they had about 15 minutes to seal off the street and clear nearby buildings before the vehicle exploded around 6:30 a.m., damaging several buildings, including the AT&T transmission building at 166 Second Ave. N. The bomb squad had been en route, police say.
- Injuries and fatalities: At least three people were hurt in the blast; possible fatalities are suspected.
Three people were transported to local hospitals, according to emergency officials, all with minor injuries. The human impact was mitigated by the fact that the explosion took place early in the morning on a holiday, and that the RV announced a warning to evacuate the area.
But it’s possible that a person or people inside the vehicle died during the blast. Police have shared a surveillance camera image of the RV driving along Second Avenue, but they haven’t shared images of a suspect leaving the vehicle. Additionally, Metro Nashville Police Chief John Drake says human tissue may have been found at the scene; the department is investigating before confirming more details. (The Associated Press says sources tell them “human remains” were found in the vicinity of the explosion.)
BREAKING: This is the RV that exploded on 2nd Ave N this morning. It arrived on 2nd Ave at 1:22 a.m. Have you seen this vehicle in our area or do you have information about it? Please contact us via Crime Stoppers at 615-742-7463 or online via https://t.co/dVGS7o0m4v. @ATFHQ pic.twitter.com/JNx9sDinAH
— Metro Nashville PD (@MNPDNashville) December 25, 2020
- Complications: AT&T was damaged, but the intent is still unknown
Several hours after the blast occurred outside of an AT&T transmission building, municipalities around the region — and as far away as Knox County and Kentucky — started reporting that their 911 lines were down. The Federal Aviation Administration temporarily halted flights yesterday from Nashville International Airport.
In an update Saturday morning, AT&T says its teams are working “around the clock” on outages, including setting up two portable cell sites in downtown Nashville and “numerous additional portable sites” in the region. But the transmission building still has no power, and a fire reignited overnight at the facility. Now, AT&T says, its teams “have drilled access holes into the building and are attempting to reconnect power to critical equipment.”
Was the AT&T transmission building the intentional target of the blast? As of yesterday, police said they did not know and that it’s possible the location of the blast was a coincidence.
- Investigation: What law enforcement will be looking for
There are dozens of city-installed cameras across Nashville (127 of them, as of 2015), in addition to private surveillance cameras from businesses along Second Avenue. Combing through tape will certainly be a major part of the investigation.
The city has also blocked off a wide swath of downtown as the crime scene, which will be closed to the public until at least tomorrow. The city’s bus service has resumed rides, but will not travel to the restricted area seen below.
BREAKING: We will be resuming regular service tomorrow (Dec. 26), but buses will be detouring around the "No-Go Explosion Zone" until further notice. If you're planning to ride tomorrow, please check this out: https://t.co/UYaFoGy4S1. pic.twitter.com/nxcTQ43pK5
— WeGo Public Transit (@WeGoTransit) December 26, 2020
NPR’s John Burnett, who previously covered the deadly Oklahoma City bombing, told Weekend Edition Saturday that in 1995, FBI agents had combed the area surrounding the blast until they found an axle from the destroyed rental truck with a VIN number on it. They traced that to the rental agency and eventually tracked it back to Timothy McVeigh, who was convicted and put to death for the bombing.
“That’s the kind of evidence they’re looking for here in Nashville,” Burnett says.