A church’s surveillance camera captured the explosion in downtown Nashville on Christmas morning, which injured at least three people. Police, who are calling it an intentional act, found possible human remains near the blast site.
The video from Cross Point Church in downtown Nashville, shared on social media, shows thick plumes of black smoke rising from the burning vehicle at 6:30 a.m. outside the AT&T transmission building on 2nd Avenue North in the middle of a business and entertainment district.
“The fireball went all the way up past the AT&T, above the AT&T building. Everything just, I mean, everything shook. It was quite the blast,” CNN quoted a witness as saying.
Another witness described the scene of destruction saying it felt as if it was “an apocalyptic movie.”
A police officer in the area was knocked to the ground by the blast that also caused significant damages to nearby buildings.
“This morning’s attack on our community was intended to create chaos and fear in this season of peace and hope,” Mayor John Cooper said at a news conference, according to CBS17. “But Nashvillians have proven time and time again that the spirit of our city cannot be broken.”
At least three civilians were hospitalized and were said to be in stable condition as of Friday evening.
Metro Nashville Police Department Chief John Drake was quoted as saying that the tissues investigators found near the blast site will be examined. “We believe (it) could be (human) remains, but we’ll have that examined and let you know at that time.”
Before the blast, police received a call claiming that shots could be heard in the area, and witnesses said the vehicle emanated the sound of a woman’s voice warning that a bomb would go off in 15 minutes. (Watch surveillance footage here.)
“This area must be evacuated now. If you can hear this message, evacuate now," said the recorded message.
A woman who owns a business on Second Avenue and lives in a loft apartment near the blast site told the Tennessean that "she left the area after she heard the recording play a countdown to the explosion."
Initially, she awoke to the sound of gunshots and called 911. Afterward, she heard the evacuation warning coming from the RV.
“Evacuate now. There is a bomb. A bomb is in this vehicle and will explode,” Betsy Williams recalled hearing, according tothe Tennessean.
Police said they encountered the vehicle Friday morning while they were responding to the report of shots fired.
After the vehicle was found, officers went from door to door to evacuate apartments. “We think lives were saved from these officers,” the spokesman said, according to Fox17.
The FBI is leading the investigation with assistance from the ATF and Metro Nashville Police Department.
AT&T said the central office of a telephone exchange, with network equipment in it, was affected by the explosion, which also interrupted service. “We do not know if that was a coincidence, or if that was the intention,” police spokesman Don Aaron was quoted as saying.
President Donald Trump was briefed on the explosion, according to White House deputy spokesperson Judd Deere. “The President is grateful for the incredible first responders and praying for those who were injured,” Deere said.
Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee said on Twitter that the state would provide the resources necessary “to determine what happened and who was responsible. Please join @MariaLeeTN and me in praying for those who were injured and we thank all of our first responders who acted so quickly this morning.”
Anyone with information about this case is asked to contact Crime Stoppers at 615-742-7463.