Anthony Warner motive; police told of bombmaking
The Nashville police chief on Wednesday defended his department’s handling of a 2019 complaint from the Christmas Day bomber’s girlfriend that he was building bombs more than a year before he conducted the blast that shook the city’s downtown.
Anthony Quinn Warner‘s girlfriend told Nashville police in August 2019 that he “was building bombs in the RV trailer at his residence,” according to documents obtained by The Tennessean, part of the USA TODAY Network.
Though the report was flagged for local and federal authorities, there appears to have been no action to stop Warner.
In speaking to reporters Wednesday, Metro Nashville Police Chief John Drake repeatedly said officers didn’t have enough evidence to seek a search warrant of Warner’s home or RV, and said Warner’s attorney told officers they would not be able to search the property.
“I believe officers did everything they could legally,” he said. “Maybe we could’ve followed up more. Hindsight is 20/20.”
David Rausch, director of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, said Monday that Warner “was not on our radar” before Friday’s explosion, despite his girlfriend’s comments 16 months earlier.
The woman was experiencing a mental health crisis at the time of her report to police, the documents show. Officers called their mobile crisis division, and after talking with the woman, she agreed to be transported by ambulance for a psychological evaluation, police said.
An RV was at the center of the explosion that police said killed Warner, injured three others, damaged more than 40 buildings and led many to wonder what the bomber’s motive was.
Owners of businesses within the blast radius got a first look at damage Tuesday. The buildings had been blocked off behind an investigative perimeter since Friday.
“I’ve been fortunate to never have to be in a war zone, so I can’t be sure this is what it would be like, but it feels like war; it feels eerie, it feels surreal,” photographer and art curator Ashley Segroves Bergeron told The Tennessean. “Everyone’s faces are dazed. The crew, the police, FBI, everyone. Just dazed and tired.”
Segroves Bergeron, who runs a gallery and art show room called Studio 208 a block away from where the bombing took place, was among dozens of residents and business owners who assessed the damage Tuesday.
The cleanup effort on Second Avenue, which is likely to take months, won’t get fully underway until the FBI lifts its perimeter around the area.
The FBI said it plans to hand over the crime scene to Nashville officials by the end of the day Wednesday. Meanwhile, officials were awaiting word on whether they would receive federal aid.
Police visit Warner’s home in August 2019
Metro Nashville Police Department officers arrived at the home of Warner’s girlfriend Aug. 21, 2019, after the woman’s attorney, Raymond Throckmorton, told police Warner “frequently talks about the military and bombmaking,” according to documents obtained by The Tennessean.
When officers went to Warner’s residence, he did not answer the door, nor were police able to see inside the RV parked at the house.
“They saw no evidence of a crime and had no authority to enter his home or fenced property,” police spokesman Don Aaron told The Tennessean.
Police supervisors, detectives and the department’s hazardous devices unit were made aware of the incident, The Tennessean reported.
Local and federal authorities conducted what FBI spokesperson Darrell DeBusk called a standard agency-to-agency records check on Warner. Neither the FBI nor the Department of Defense reported having anything on Warner.
During the week of Aug. 26, 2019, police called Throckmorton, who declined to allow them to interview Warner or go on Warner’s property, the FBI told The Tennessean.
Throckmorton disputed that he told authorities they could not inspect the RV, saying he has “no memory of that whatsoever.”
“At no time was there any evidence of a crime detected, and no additional action was taken,” Aaron said. “No additional information about Warner came to the department’s or the FBI’s attention after August 2019.”
Investigators continue to search for a motive in the attack.
ABC News reported that Warner may have shown interest in various conspiracy theories, including some involving 5G technology and “lizard people” pushing for world domination.
The bomber’s intentions appear to be “more destruction than death,” TBI Director Rausch said Monday on “Today,” but specifics on what led Warner to carry out the bombing might never be uncovered.
“We may never find out the exact reasoning behind the activity that took place,” Rausch said.
ABC News reported investigators looked into whether Warner was paranoid about 5G technology.
AT&T’s central office in Nashville was among the facilities damaged by the blast, which caused major wireless disruption from Georgia to Kentucky.
The bombing caused a freeze in phone service for 911 call centers, hospitals, the Nashville airport, government offices and individual mobile users across the region, exposing what experts called a vulnerability in the area’s network.
“That’s the Achilles’ heel. The weak link,” Douglas Schmidt, professor of computer science at Vanderbilt University, told The Tennessean. “Having a critical facility in a major metropolitan area next to a street without any other protections than a thick wall is crazy.”
AT&T reported Monday morning that the majority of services in Nashville had been restored.
Contributing: Brinley Hineman, Rachel Wegner, Mariah Timms and Natalie Allison, The Tennessean.