Nashville’s police chief has repeatedly said the department responded to a 2019 report about Anthony Warner as thoroughly as it could at the time, and that it acknowledged the report quickly as it could after the Christmas Day bombing.
But the police department is now creating an “after-action report” to determine whether it made mistakes.
One thing the report is looking into is potential lapses in communication.
Chief John Drake said last week he didn’t learn about the 2019 report involving Warner until after a press conference the previous weekend.
“I had no knowledge of it until Sunday evening, Sunday evening late,” he told reporters last Wednesday.
But he told WPLN News on Monday that he had in fact heard about it before the press conference, although he didn’t say anything about it when TBI Director David Rausch stepped up to the mic right after him and said that Warner wasn’t on any authorities’ radar prior to the explosion.
When asked if his failure to disclose the existence of the report was due to a miscommunication or lack of transparency, Drake said he hadn’t read the report yet and wanted to gather more information before speaking publicly about. However, he said the department is looking into whether more could have been done to release the records sooner.
“That’s what the after-action report is for, to find out if there was any gaps,” Drake said. “We’re committed to transparency. We want to make sure we’re being as transparent and as forthcoming as possible.”
Drake said the after-action report will also look for any missed opportunities to follow up with Warner or his girlfriend in 2019.
Protocols are also changing: Drake says any bomb-related calls will now be reviewed by a captain. And he plans to assign a full-time representative to the Joint Terrorism Task Force, which facilitates collaboration between local, state and federal law enforcement agencies for potential terrorism cases.
Investigation into possible motives ongoing
The term “domestic terrorism” has resurfaced a controversial buzzword as authorities investigate potential motives behind the bombing.
Over the weekend, the FBI confirmed that it was looking into several packages Warner sent to people he knew before the explosion. Several media outlets have reported that the packages included conspiracy theories.
The FBI says it still has not ruled out domestic terrorism as a possible label for the Christmas morning bombing in downtown Nashville.
At a briefing with Metro Council members Monday afternoon, Chief Drake said federal agents determined that the explosion was not terrorism. But a spokesperson for the FBI tells WPLN News that the agency is still assessing evidence from the scene and hasn’t yet reached a final conclusion.
“At the appropriate time, we will make a final determination when we have been able to review the maximum amount of information,” he said.
The FBI defines domestic terrorism as a violent act that’s carried out to further the attacker’s beliefs about issues within American society.
Councilmembers challenge MNPD
During the Monday call, some councilmembers also challenged the department’s handling of important information on Anthony Warner.
In the August 2019 report, the Christmas bomber’s then-girlfriend warned police that he was building a bomb. Now, Nashville councilmember Delishia Porterfield wants to know why Metro officers didn’t try harder to check out the tip on Warner, a 63-year-old white man.
“Please make it plain for us so that we can understand why there was not more done to interact with this individual to stop this, when we knew a year ago,” she said to Drake.
Porterfield compared that situation to police busted into the wrong apartment in an Edgehill apartment complex last summer, while looking for a teenager suspected in a carjacking. The police wrote a warrant based on old information, which led them to the home of a Black woman unconnected to the case who didn’t even have time to get dressed before officers barged in.
Porterfield questions why the police were able to enter a home with force in that case, but not in Warner’s.
Drake said that no matter a person’s race or proximity to an affluent area, they still have privacy rights. He defended past decisions not to enter the Christmas bomber’s home.
Read more from WPLN’s exclusive interview with Chief John Drake on Tuesday. Samantha Max is a Report for America corps member.