Federal investigators have identified a significant person in connection with the explosion that rocked downtown Nashville on Christmas Day and were searching a home associated with that person, law enforcement officials said Saturday.
Jason Buck, the special agent for the FBI, said that investigators from several federal and local law enforcement agencies were at a house in Antioch, in the suburbs of Nashville, after receiving information related to the investigation. Another law enforcement official, who was not authorized to discuss the ongoing investigation and who spoke to the Associated Press on condition of anonymity, said that investigators consider the person associated with the property to be someone interested in the bombing.
Earlier Saturday, investigators said at a news conference that they were looking at a number of people who may have been linked to the bombing but also did not find additional IEDs – indicating that there was no active threat to the area.
Douglas Korniski, the special agent in charge of the FBI field office in Memphis, said that 250 agents, analysts, and FBI personnel working on the case are making progress in the search for the person or persons responsible for planting a bomb in a recreational vehicle that exploded along a deserted street in Mostly. Three people were injured.
“It will take us some time,” he said. “Our investigation team turns every stone” to understand who did this and why.
Separately, the Federal Emergency Management Agency said in a report on Saturday that tissue samples found at the scene of the accident were identified as human remains.
The attack continued to wreak havoc on communication systems across the state. Police emergency systems in Tennessee, Kentucky and Alabama, as well as the COVID-19 community hotline in Nashville and a few hospital systems, remained out of service due to the AT&T Central Bureau being affected by the explosion. The building contained a telephone exchange with network equipment – but the company declined to say how many people were affected.
Investigators sealed off the heart of the tourist scene in downtown Nashville – an area crammed with sonic tones, restaurants and stores – as they browsed through broken glass and damaged buildings to learn more about the explosion.
Mayor John Cooper imposed a curfew in the downtown area until Sunday with an executive order to restrict public access to the area.
AT&T said the restoration effort faces many challenges, including a fire that ignited overnight and led to the evacuation of the building. This forced their teams to work with safety and construction engineers and drill access holes into the building to reconnect the power.
The company said in a statement on Saturday that our teams are continuing to work around the clock in efforts to recover from yesterday morning’s blast in Nashville. “We have two mobile sites operating in Downtown Nashville with several additional mobile sites spread across the Nashville area and the region.”
Governor Bill Lee asked the White House on Saturday for federal assistance due to the “severity and magnitude” of the impact of the blast. He said that at least 41 buildings were damaged, and communication systems – including mobile and residential phone service and 911 call centers – were failing across the state. He said Kentucky and North Alabama were also affected.
Ray Neville, chief technology officer at T-Mobile, said on Twitter that the service disruption had affected Louisville, Nashville, Knoxville, Birmingham and Atlanta. “We still see the interruption of service in these areas after the explosion yesterday,” he said in a tweet on Saturday that restoration efforts are continuing around the clock and we will bring you the latest developments.
The disruptions even briefly halted flights at Nashville International Airport, but service continued normally until Saturday. The Federal Aviation Association has since issued temporary restrictions on flying around the airport, requiring pilots to follow strict procedures until December 30.
According to Nashville Metro Police Chief John Drake, police officers responded Friday to a report of the shooting when they encountered an RV firing a recorded bomb explosion warning within 15 minutes. Police evacuated nearby buildings and called a bomb squad. The RV exploded shortly thereafter.
Law enforcement officials said shortly after the blast occurred around 6:30 a.m., they believed the explosion was deliberate. They did not speak publicly about a potential goal or motive.
In West Virginia, a hospital system said it was experiencing network connectivity issues directly related to the Nashville explosion. Thomas Health, based in South Charleston, which operates two hospitals, said on its Facebook page that it did not have the estimated time to recover.
Likewise, Sumner Regional Medical Center in Gallatin, Tennessee said on its Facebook page that it operates without access to some of its systems, including medical records.
“We are preparing for such situations and immediately moved to the paper records. There has been no interruption in the provision of patient care and there is no need to worry about this temporary issue,” the center said in a post.