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FBI Investigates 'Intentional' Explosion In Nashville's Downtown District

Nashville Fire Department

An explosion rocked downtown Nashville early Friday, stabbing a clear blue Christmas morning sky with an ominous black plume of smoke, only moments after a vehicle broadcast an automated warning to anyone nearby to evacuate. Investigators believed the blast was "intentional."

However, at a noon briefing, authorities declined to speculate on a motive.

According to initial news reports from WPLN, the Tennesseannewspaper and TV coverage, police responded to a call of shots fired on Second Avenue.

A police spokesman explained that when officers arrived, they saw a recreational vehicle parked on the side of the street, which they deemed suspicious.

Authorities later confirmed that speakers on the RV broadcast an automated message.

A witness told the Tennessean that she heard the message, which essentially warned of a bomb and urged anyone nearby to evacuate. The newspaper posted a video that captured partial audio of an automated voice announcing that "this area must be evacuated now. If you can hear this message, evacuate now."

Officers summoned the bomb squad and raced to seal off the streets and evacuate anyone nearby. At around 6:30 a.m., the vehicle exploded.

WPLN reported that the blast "knocked down an officer and left another with temporary hearing loss, according to MNPD spokesperson Don Aaron."

Three people were taken to the hospital with non-critical injuries, authorities said.
Investigators did not know if there was anyone in the RV.

WPLN specified the blast happened "between First and Second Avenues, and between Broadway and Church Streets."

The FBI said Friday morning that it would lead the investigation into the blast. City, state and other federal agencies will also participate.

WPLN added that authorities swept nearby buildings looking for other threats. At a Friday noon briefing, authorities were confident no other threats existed.

Videos and images tweeted out Friday morning showed an area scorched and shattered by the explosion. Business storefront windows were blown out. Debris hung from trees planted in the sidewalks. At least a dozen buildings appeared to carry burn marks from the fires.

Mayor John Cooper told reporters, “It is hard to see so much glass, litter damage and debris. It looks like a blast site, which is hard to see on one of our historic streets.”

Witnesses and residents even miles from downtown reported to the Tennessean that they heard and even felt the shock of the blast. Car and fire alarms rang out. Onlookers cried and yelled as they watched police and fire personnel race to the scene.

A White House spokesman tweeted that President Donald Trump was briefed on the explosion and would receive regular updates. Trump is spending the holiday weekend at his Florida estate. The Justice Department added that it was making available all resources to assist the investigation.

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