Days After Bombing, Nashville Courts See Disrupted Email and Phone Service

Investigators examine the site of an explosion in downtown Nashville, Tenn., on Sunday. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (CN) — Courts in Nashville continued to experience phone and email outages Monday morning because of the bomb that tore through a quiet downtown street lined with restaurants and bars Christmas morning.

Though some offices of Davidson County courts stood within or just a couple blocks to the north of the blast zone, those offices reopened Monday morning, according to a press release issued by the Administrative Office of the Courts. A website for the Tennessee state courts, tncourts.gov, was also back online.

Though the courts in Davidson County’s Historical Courthouse remained open, the elevators in the PWA Moderne-styled building experienced issues. Only the entrance on the side of the building opposite to the blast remained open Monday.

The largest effect of the blast on the courts was the disruptions to court offices’ email systems and phone lines. The press release said the Tennessee Supreme Court building in Nashville would be closed Monday and the Administrative Office of the Courts would remain closed for the rest of the week.

Anthony Quinn Warner. (Courtesy of FBI via AP)

Federal officials believe Anthony Quinn Warner, 63, acted alone to detonate an RV full of explosives, a blast which injured three and killed him in the process. Before the explosion, the vehicle broadcast a countdown and played Petula Clark’s 1964 song “Downtown.”

David Rausch, director of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, said Monday on NBC’s “Today” show that the investigation has turned to discovering the man’s motive for the attack.

According to records released Monday by TBI, Warner’s only arrest was in 1978 on a charge of possessing marijuana.

Speaking to reporters Monday, Rausch said the approximately 500 tips the public submitted to law enforcement following the blast were key to determining Warner’s involvement. TBI, along with the FBI and Metropolitan Nashville Police Department, are interviewing neighbors and family members to better understand Warner’s history, Rausch said.

The lingering effect of the bombing has been disrupted communication services across the South. The blast heavily damaged a building belonging to AT&T that contained wireless and internet connection points, which disrupted service across the region.

Besides disruption to local courts, the damage affected hospital and police communications and cell service.

AT&T had restored most of its services by Monday morning, it said in a statement, but as a result the company announced it is waiving overage charges for customers in 1,166 zip codes that stretch from Georgia to Illinois from Dec. 27 to the end of the year.

However, the service that provides crisis counseling for Tennessee lawyers, law students and judges was not so fortunate. The Tennessee Lawyers Assistance Program sustained heavy damage to its offices, which sat in the blast zone of the bomb. Its phone lines remain down as of Monday. However, its email was restored, and its website is working, the press release said.

This is the second time this year Nashville courts have had to close because of disasters in the city. A fatal tornado that ripped through the downtown area in early March closed the state court offices on the day Tennessee held its presidential primary, though a chancery court granted an emergency injunction to extend the time the polls remained open.

The service outage caused by the bomb came days after the state high court renewed its orders designed to slow the spread of Covid-19, suspending most in-person proceedings until the end of January 2021. The Dec. 22 order said clerks and judges should minimize in-person proceedings by using email and relying on remote hearings conducted through phone and video conferencing.

The phone numbers for the clerks’ offices of the Davidson County Circuit and Chancery Courts only played busy signals when Courthouse News called Monday morning. Those courts handling civil matters are housed in the Historic Courthouse.

Reached by email, Maria Salas, clerk and master of the Davidson County Chancery Court, said her office has a limited number of staff working in the building because of the holidays but is able to accept electronic case filings.

“We are open and accessible. The people and the technology of the Metro Davidson County Chancery Court are resilient,” Salas wrote.

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