Nashville Blast Suspect Died In Explosion, Officials Say
Authorities revealed that DNA testing shows the man believed to be the perpetrator of the Christmas Day incident died in the blast.
DON GONYEA, HOST:
Authorities have identified the man they say detonated a recreational vehicle in downtown Nashville on Christmas Day, injuring at least three people, devastating a historic street downtown and knocking out phone service throughout the region. At a news conference earlier tonight, officials said the man was Anthony Quinn Warner, whose recent place of residence they searched on Saturday. NPR's John Burnett is in Nashville and joins me now. Greetings, John.
JOHN BURNETT, BYLINE: Hey, Don.
GONYEA: So how did police connect Anthony Warner to the blast?
BURNETT: It was a pretty impressive piece of police work, you know, with 300 investigative officers down there from the feds, the state and the local police. First, they used surveillance video. There are many, many of these security cameras in downtown Nashville. And they spotted this white recreational vehicle with a big blue stripe down the side. People recognized that and call the tip line. Investigators found human remains from the blast site. And at midnight last night, state investigators with the Tennessee Highway Patrol were able to match the DNA from the human tissue and DNA that they took from that two-story brick duplex that Anthony Warner owned and lived in out in Antioch, a suburb southeast of Nashville. And finally, a patrol officer found a piece of the demolished RV with a VIN number on it. And they used that to find out who the vehicle was registered to, Anthony K. Warner (ph).
And, Don, there's this amazing parallel to the Oklahoma City bombing that I covered back in 1995 that killed 168 people. Investigators there found a piece of the exploded rental truck. It was an axle with the VIN number on it. And they used that to help track it back to Timothy McVeigh, who was ultimately executed for that crime.
GONYEA: Is there any indication that Anthony Warner was part of some kind of a larger plot?
BURNETT: The police chief was emphatic. He said Anthony Warner is responsible for this incident only, and no one else is part of it. Nashville is safe. The FBA agent in - excuse me, the FBI agent in charge down there said they examined a lot of these surveillance cameras and there was no one else around the van. And, in fact, they said that Warner was not on the FBI's radar. He's not known as an extremist, a local troublemaker, and they want to find out who he is.
GONYEA: So they're definitive, saying there's no larger plot. But what are they saying at this point about his potential motive?
BURNETT: Well, that's still a huge question mark here. And they're asking the public to come forward with more leads. They're very anxious to learn what motivated him. And so they're asking anyone who was acquainted with him to contact the FBI. And they - Don, they can't call this an act of terrorism until they find out if it's part of some sort of broader campaign or movement.
GONYEA: Right. What else can you tell us about the circumstances in the minutes leading up to the explosion? We understand police officers filled in some of critical details at an earlier press conference.
BURNETT: It was a really emotional day. Five of these officers who are considered local heroes and who, you know, ran into that area and helped to evacuate residents in the minutes ticking down before that event exploded. They said the shades were pulled down. There was no license tag on it. And these eerie recordings that were emanating from a speaker inside the van. One was the music from the 1964 hit "Downtown" by the British singer Petula Clark. Starts out - when you're alone and life is making you lonely, you can always go downtown. Those officers said they were grateful to be alive today.
GONYEA: Wow. That's NPR's John Burnett in Nashville. John, thank you.
BURNETT: It's a pleasure, Don. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.