Nashville Police Were Warned About Christmas Bomber Last Year

A vehicle destroyed in a Christmas Day explosion remains on the street Tuesday in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

(CN) — Nashville police went on the defensive Wednesday amid reports the girlfriend of the man who detonated a bomb Christmas morning on a downtown street had warned them in August 2019 that he was building bombs in an RV at his home.

Authorities are trying to figure out what led Anthony Quinn Warner, 63, to set off a bomb in his RV, unleashing a blast that killed him, injured three others and damaged 41 buildings, including an AT&T telecom transmission center, causing cellphone and 911 service outages throughout the Southeast.

Law enforcement officers matched tissue found at the blast site to DNA from gloves and a hat they found inside Warner’s car.

The Metro Nashville Police Department said in a statement Wednesday officers went to the home of Warner’s girlfriend on Aug. 21, 2019, after her attorney Raymond Throckmorton III reported she was threatening to kill herself and was sitting on her front porch with two pistols.

The woman told police the guns, which were not loaded, belonged to Warner and she did not want them in the house anymore.

After speaking to a Nashville police mobile crisis team, she voluntarily got into an ambulance and was taken to a hospital for a psychiatric evaluation.

She also “made statements that her boyfriend (suspect) was building bombs in the RV trailer at his residence,” according to an incident report Nashville police included with their Wednesday statement about the case. (Parentheses in original.)

The incident report says police went to Warner’s house the same day and knocked on the door but no one answered.

“Police observed that there was a RV trailer in the back yard but the yard was fenced off and police could not see inside the RV. Police also observed that the location has several security cameras and wires attached to an alarm sign on the front door,” the report states.

Throckmorton, who per the incident report said he represented both Warner and his girlfriend, told police at the time that Warner often talked about the military and bomb making and he thought Warner “knows what he is doing and is capable of making a bomb.”

Nashville police said Wednesday they immediately notified the department’s hazardous devices unit about Warner, and asked the FBI to look into Warner’s background and to see if he had any military connections.

The FBI found no records on Warner and its query to the Department of Defense came up empty, according to Nashville police.

Days after officers spoke to Warner’s girlfriend, members of the hazardous devices unit talked to Throckmorton on the phone.

“The recollection of that call is that Warner did not care for the police, and that Throckmorton would not allow his client to permit a visual inspection of the RV,” Nashville police said in a statement Wednesday.

Defending their decision not to follow up, they added, “At no time was there any evidence of a crime detected and no additional action was taken.”

Warner’s only criminal record was a marijuana possession arrest from 1978.

He reportedly worked as an IT consultant for a Nashville real estate firm, but told the company earlier this month he was retiring.

Metro Nashville Police Chief John Drake, who was promoted to that position Nov. 30, said at a news conference Wednesday afternoon he learned of the incident report late Sunday.

Drake said despite Warner’s girlfriend’s claim he was making bombs and Throckmorton’s statement Warner was familiar with explosives, that was not enough to get a warrant to search his home or RV.

“That’s not enough,” Drake said. “You have a girlfriend who said that. And really they could say that about me. They could say I’m making a bomb and I have the ability to do so. But it doesn’t give people the right to go inside.”

Drake explained a Nashville bomb squad officer who knocked on Warner’s door in August 2019 said he could not smell any explosives and there were no signs of bomb making.

“So it would have taken signs that an actual crime was being committed, that a bomb was actually being made. But to the officer’s view the only thing he saw was the RV, that he could not see inside and he was not allowed access to it,” Drake said.

The chief said in the week after police knocked on Warner’s door, the same bomb squad officer drove by the home several days in a row, trying unsuccessfully to contact Warner, who was known to go camping for weeks at a time.

Throckmorton on Tuesday disputed the Nashville police department’s version of his interactions with them in August 2019.

He told the Tennessean he had represented Warner in a civil matter, but Warner was no longer his client in August 2019. He said he had “no memory” of telling police they could not search Warner’s RV.

Throckmorton laid the blame on law enforcement for not keeping tabs on Warner. “Somebody, somewhere dropped the ball,” he said.

The FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives are leading the investigation into the blast scene and expect that work to continue at least through Wednesday night.

They are reportedly analyzing chemical residue to try to determine what substances Warner used to make the bomb, and investigating how he acquired the materials to see if he had any accomplices.

It’s unclear why Warner blew up his RV outside the AT&T building, though investigators said they are exploring if he believed any conspiracy theories about 5G cellular technology, ABC News reported Tuesday.

Warner’s actions suggest he did not want to hurt civilians. Before the bomb went off, a recording blared from loudspeakers on the vehicle in which a woman’s voice stated, “If you can hear this message evacuate now.” The recording also said a bomb would detonate in 15 minutes.

The RV started playing Petula Clark’s song “Downtown” moments before the bomb detonated. The song reached No. 1 on the Billboard charts in January 1965.

In a Facebook post Tuesday, Clark said she is in shock over the bombing and asked, “Of all the thousands of songs–why this one?” 

“I would like to wrap my arms around Nashville – give you all a hug – and wish you Love, a Happy and Healthy New Year,” she added.

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