One theory investigators are pursuing is that Warner blew himself up in the RV, according to two people familiar with the matter, who cautioned that officials are still pursuing numerous leads and that no final conclusions have been reached.
Nashville Mayor John Cooper said the very specific location of the bombing, next to the AT&T building, indicated it was meant to be an attack on service, and that the city may need help in hardening its infrastructure in the wake of the attack.
“It feels like there has to be some connection with the AT&T facility and the site of the bombing,” he told CBS News on Sunday. “It’s got to have something to do with the infrastructure.”
AT&T said in a statement that more than 75 percent of the service sites affected by the explosion had been restored.
The blast rocked the city around dawn Friday. An RV exploded on the city’s Second Avenue, a popular stretch with bars, and usually buzzing music venues and restaurants. The blast devastated the surrounding area and damaged more than 40 businesses. Three people were hospitalised with injuries. There were widespread disruptions to cell service and the Internet.
Officers who evacuated buildings ahead of the blast described the moments after arriving on the scene and leading up to the RV explosion.
There was a strange recorded warning, which started to play a 15-minute countdown, coming from the RV. Officers started knocking on doors, contacting dispatch to get access codes to buildings, clearing them floor by floor, warning residents that answered to gather family members and safely evacuate. Some officers moved their patrol vehicles to outside a blast radius.
“That’s stuff that I’ll never forget, the sound of the announcement saying … ‘Evacuate now'” said Amanda Topping, one of five officers who spoke to reporters during a morning news conference. “Just odd. And I’m pacing back and forth because I kept on having to turn pedestrians around.”
The RV began to play music. The officers prepared themselves, some going back to their cars for heavier gear.
“As I’m getting ready to walk toward (other officers), walking back toward the RV … I literally hear God tell me to turn around and check on Topping, who was by herself,” officer James Wells said. “As I turn around – for me it felt like I only took three steps, the music stops. As I’m walking back toward Topping, I just see orange and I hear a loud boom. I’m just telling myself, stay on your feet, stay alive.”
Mr Cooper said during the news conference that he had recently spoken to US Senator Marsha Blackburn, who said she had spoken with President Donald Trump about the need for federal aid.
Governor Bill Lee asked Trump on Saturday for federal assistance in response to the explosion, noting the downed communication systems and damage to businesses were too much for the state to handle alone.
Ms Blackburn’s office did not immediately respond to an inquiry about her conversation with Mr Cooper or with the president. The White House has not publicly responded to the request for federal help.
“This will dedicate federal resources to help our communities’ recovery and support small business owners who are already hurting from the pandemic,” Blackburn tweeted on Saturday.
Mr Cooper referred to the area impacted by the explosion as “part of our historic identity of Nashville, this kind of late Victorian streetscape that ended up being bombed.”
“The businesses there, they’ve just – going through covid, they’ve had the worst nine months that you could have as a business,” he said. “And then now to be affected by a bombing. Of course, we’re going to need help and we may need some help in hardening our infrastructure.”
- Additional reporting by Toluse Olorunnipa, Devlin Barrett and Matt Zapotosky.
The Washington Post