A vehicle in downtown Nashville exploded just after 6:30 a.m. Christmas Day in what authorities say was an intentional act.
Nashville’s Office of Emergency Management said the explosion of an RV resulted from an “intentional bombing incident” outside of 166 Second Avenue North. The FBI is leading the investigation with assistance from the ATF and Metro Nashville Police Department.
Initially, officers were responding to a shots fired call in downtown Nashville but found no signs of a shooting. Officers then spotted a suspicious looking RV and called the bomb squad. While the bomb squad was en route to the scene, the RV exploded.
“Officers responded to shots fired call on 2nd Avenue at approximately 5:30 a.m. The department’s Hazardous Devices Unit was called to check the RV. As those officers were en route, the vehicle exploded outside an A-T-&-T transmission building. Multiple buildings on 2nd Avenue were damaged, some extensively,” the Metropolitan Government of Nashville said in a press release.
Minutes before the explosion a recording on a loudspeaker warned people to evacuate the area, which can be heard in surveillance footage.
“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.
According to Fox 17, “Chief John Drake said the RV was making announcements warning that the bomb would detonate in 15 minutes and a bomb squad was called in. Officers immediately began going door to door, evacuating apartments. Police also diverted one man who was walking his dog on 2nd Ave. just before the explosion occurred.”
“We think lives were saved from these officers,” Aaron said.
Three civilians were wounded in the blast that damaged nearby buildings and shattered windows.
Police spokesman Don Aaron said the three people were transported to area hospitals for treatment, though none were believed to be in critical condition.
One officer in the area was knocked down by the explosion and another experienced hearing loss, police said. No officer sustained serious injuries.
The area where the explosion occurred is near Nashville’s famed Lower Broadway. The Tennessean noted, “Alarms inside several buildings were heard going off with water pouring into some buildings with structural damage and broken windows. Trees lining Second Avenue were blackened from the incident.”
Metro police said in a statement that explosive detection dogs are doing sweeps in the area and inside buildings, and traffic to downtown is restricted.
Nashville International Airport has also moved to take extra security measures, a spokesman stating, "We have activated enhanced security protocol. Not at liberty to provide any additional details."
President Donald Trump has been 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.