- The Washington Times - Friday, December 25, 2020

An explosion in Nashville sent three people to the hospital and destroyed city buildings Christmas morning in what police say may have been “an intentional act.”

At a press conference, officials swore to “find out what happened,” but do not believe the downtown area is facing any other immediate threats.

“We know of no other imminent danger to the city at this point,” Metro Nashville Police Department spokesman Don Aaron said Friday afternoon.

Officials are still conducting a sweep of the area as a precaution.

Smoke billowed out from the scene and could be seen “from miles away” Friday morning, according to the Tennessean.

The local Nashville paper said police responded to reports of a suspicious recreational vehicle outside an AT&T building, and an officer on the scene “had reason” to notify the Metro Nashville Police Department’s hazardous devices unit. They were driving to the scene when the “significant explosion” went off.

MNPD Chief of Police John Drake said officers were responding to a report of shots fired around 5:30 a.m. Central Standard Time when they found an RV with a recording notifying them that a bomb would go off in 15 minutes.

“The officers, upon hearing that, decided to evacuate the buildings,” Chief Drake said. “Shortly after that, the RV exploded. We had one officer that was knocked to the ground, another officer is fine.”

Mr. Aaron said the morning explosion shattered glass and damaged buildings, and officials investigating believe it was “an intentional act.”

He said that three people were taken to the hospital — none in critical conditions.

The Fire Department is still investigating the buildings to determine if they are  structurally sound or if there are any additional victims in the area.

The MNPD released a photo of the RV, which arrived in the area at 1:22 a.m. (CST), a few hours before the explosion. Police are asking the public to send in any information they have.

President Trump has been briefed on the explosion and will be following developments.

“The President is grateful for the incredible first responders and praying for those who were injured,” deputy press secretary Judd Deere said in a statement.

President-elect Joseph R. Biden was also briefed on the incident.

“The president -elect and Dr. Biden thank all the first responders working today in response to the incident, and wish those who were injured a speedy recovery,” his office said in a statement.

The FBI is leading the investigation. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation are also involved

A spokesman for acting Attorney General Jeff Rosen said he was briefed on the incident Friday morning and directed that “all DOJ resources be made available” to assist in the investigation.

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee said his administration will “supply all of the resources needed to determine what happened and who was responsible.”

Black smoke and flames were seen early Friday billowing from the area, which is packed with bars, restaurants and other retail establishments and is known as the heart of downtown Nashville’s tourist scene.

Buildings shook in the immediate area and beyond after a loud boom was heard.

Buck McCoy, who lives near the area, posted videos on Facebook that show water pouring down the ceiling of his home. Alarms blare in the background and cries of people in great distress ring in the background. A fire is visible in the street outside. McCoy said the windows of his home were entirely blown out.

“All my windows, every single one of them got blown into the next room. If I had been standing there it would have been horrible,” he said.

“It felt like a bomb. It was that big,” he told The Associated Press.

“There were about four cars on fire. I don’t know if it was so hot they just caught on fire, and the trees were all blown apart,” he said.

• Jeff Mordock contributed to this article, which is based in part on wire service reports.

• Gabriella Muñoz can be reached at gmunoz@washingtontimes.com.

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