The Nashville explosion that damaged dozens of downtown buildings is considered an intentional act

Nashville Metro Police Department officers were responding to a call for shots fired Friday morning when they found a trailer parked in front of an AT&T building on 166 2nd Avenue North, according to police spokesman Don Aaron.

The police saw no immediate evidence of shots fired, Aaron said at a news conference, but something about the RV prompted law enforcement officials to request the department’s dangerous device unit.

The bomb squad was responding to downtown when the RV exploded at 6:30 am CT, Aaron said.

“We believe this was an intentional act,” said Aaron. “Significant damage has been done to the infrastructure of 2nd Avenue North.”

Three people were transported from the scene to hospitals, but none were in critical condition, according to Nashville Fire spokesman Joseph Pleasant.

The force of the explosion knocked down one policeman, Aaron said, and caused hearing loss in another – hopefully temporarily, he said. But no police officer was significantly injured.

A vehicle is on fire after an explosion in Nasvhille on Friday, December 25, 2020.

The FBI told CNN that its Memphis field office is taking over the investigation.

There were no known credible threats in the Nashville area that would have signaled an imminent attack before Christmas, a federal law source told CNN.

A second law enforcement source said federal officials are not aware of any increase in conversations at the national level by well-known extremist groups that indicate any reliable plans to conduct attacks during the holiday.

Acting United States Attorney General Jeff Rosen was briefed on the incident this morning, according to his spokesman, “and ordered all DOJ resources to be made available to assist in the investigation.”

The White House said President Donald Trump was also informed of the incident and will receive “regular updates”.

Tennessee Governor Bill Lee said in a statement on Twitter that the state “will provide all the necessary resources” to determine the cause of the explosion.

‘Everything on the street was on fire’

An eyewitness Buck McCoy told CNN that the explosion occurred right in front of his home, causing his windows to explode.

“Everything on the street was on fire,” he said. “Three cars were totally engulfed.”

McCoy said he was initially woken up by what he believed to be shots about 10 minutes before the explosion. He got up and looked out the window, said, but went back to bed when he saw nothing.

Asked if the noise he heard could have been anything other than gunshots, McCoy emphasized that he believed so, saying he has a gun and will shoot, so he is familiar with the sound of gunshots.

Emergency personnel work at the explosion site.

Investigators are doing a secondary search of downtown buildings, especially those on 2nd Avenue, to make sure no one needs help, Aaron said.

Before the explosion, police officers went from door to door or apartment to apartment to inform residents about the situation. A man walking a dog on 2nd Avenue was redirected by a police officer just before the trailer exploded, he said.

Authorities do not know if anyone was inside the vehicle when the explosion occurred, he said. The police are not aware of any further attempted explosion.

Nashville Mayor John Cooper told CNN that dozens of buildings were damaged, mainly because of the broken glass. Some buildings have been evacuated, the mayor said, but he does not know how many buildings or how many people were impacted.

“At the moment, there are only a lot of damaged glass on 2nd Avenue,” he said.

The street is on the edge of Tennessee’s hospitality and tourist district, in an old and historic part of the city.

Smoke rises from downtown Nashville after an explosion.
Cooper told CNN WSMV affiliate that the explosion was “clearly made when no one was around”.

“Fortunately, there are not many people here,” he said.

Images from the CNN affiliate WTVF showed smoke rising from a street fire, with debris scattered throughout the area.

McCoy told CNN that when he looked outside after the explosion, the trees fell and broken glass was everywhere. He saw people leaving their apartments with their animals. Firefighters told him to stay as far away from the area as possible, he said.

“There is nothing left on 2nd Avenue,” he said.

CNN’s Paul P. Murphy, Evan Perez, Josh Campbell and Devon Sayers contributed to this report.