Nashville rocked by Christmas Day explosion

An RV in downtown Nashville broadcast warnings that it was going to explode — and then did so, injuring three in what authorities believe is a Christmas Day attack.
Police were responding to a report of shots fired Friday when they encountered the RV blaring a recorded warning that a bomb would detonate in 15 minutes, Metro Nashville Police Chief John Drake said. Police evacuated nearby buildings and called in the bomb squad. The RV exploded shortly afterward, Drake said at a news conference.
“It looks like a bomb went off on Second Avenue,” Nashville Mayor John Cooper said after touring the site. Cooper issued a state of emergency and a curfew for the area.
Surveillance video published on a Twitter account Friday that appeared to be from across the street from the blast captured the recorded warning issuing from the RV, “if you can hear this message, evacuate now,” seconds before the explosion.
The blast sent black smoke and flames billowing from the heart of downtown Nashville’s tourist scene, an area packed with honky-tonks, restaurants and shops. Buildings shook streets over from the explosion outside a building owned by AT&T, which is one block away from the company’s office tower.
“We do not know if that was a coincidence, or if that was the intention,” police spokesman Don Aaron said.
Ed Davis, who led Boston Police through the Marathon Bombing in 2013 and then worked for the federal government, said the situation is highly unusual, with police being drawn in by a 911 call only for everyone then be warned to leave.
“It would appear as though the intent of this is to do property damage and make a statement, rather than loss of life,” Davis told the Herald.
Davis said that means it’s probably not foreign terrorists, and more likely is either some domestic group or “some aggrieved individual.”
AT&T said the affected building is the central office of a telephone exchange, with network equipment in it.
Three people were taken to area hospitals for treatment, although none were in critical condition, Aaron said.
Drake said investigators at the scene “have found tissue that we believe could be remains, but we’ll have that examined and let you know at that time.” Police could not say whether it potentially came from someone inside the RV.
Aaron said earlier that some people were taken to the department’s central precinct for questioning but declined to give more details.
The FBI will be taking the lead in the investigation, agency spokesman Joel Siskovic said. Federal investigators from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives were also on the scene. The FBI is the primary law enforcement agency responsible for investigating federal crimes, such as explosives violations and acts of terrorism.
The Boston FBI office said in a statement, “There is no specific or credible threat to the Boston Division’s area of responsibility at this time. We will continue to share any intelligence we receive with our law enforcement partners.”
The office and Boston Police asked people to remain vigilant.
Buck McCoy, who lives near the area, posted videos on Facebook that show water pouring down the ceiling of his home. Alarms blare in the background along with cries of people in distress. A fire is visible in the street outside.
McCoy said he heard gunfire 15 minutes before the explosion rocked his building. He said cars in the street were on fire and trees were blown apart.
“All my windows, every single one of them got blown into the next room. If I had been standing there it would have been horrible,” he said.
“It felt like a bomb. It was that big,” he said.
— Herald wire services contributed to this report.

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