Authorities told a press conference on Saturday that federal agents were pursuing at least 500 leads in the investigation into an explosion that rocked downtown Nashville on Christmas Day, injuring three people and damaging dozens of historic buildings.
The vehicle exploded around 6:30 am on Christmas morning in what police called an “intentional act”. Officers responded to a call that shots had been fired in the area, where they found an RV playing a recording warning that a bomb would explode “in 15 minutes.” Police spokesman Don Aaron called the six local officers who rushed to evacuate sleeping residents as “heroes” for saving the lives of civilians.
CBS News reporter Jeff Pegues reported on Saturday that the police had identified one or more persons of interest in connection with the blast and reported a name The Daily Beast could not immediately confirm. Authorities declined to confirm details at Saturday’s briefing, even after the CBS News report, but said they were not looking for “another topic.”
Soon after, USA Today journalist Natalie Neysa Alund tweeted footage of local and federal officers at a house in Nashville for “court-authorized activity,” and neighbors said a motorhome similar to the one in the explosion was parked at the house over the past few weeks. Officials at Saturday’s press conference confirmed that “we have ongoing activities in this area.”
Even still, authorities repeatedly emphasized one point throughout Saturday’s briefing: The city will continue to operate, even if it remains under curfew and faces power outages.
“Nashville is safe,” Metro Nashville Police Chief John Drake said.
FBI Special Agent in charge, Doug Korneski, added that authorities had “no indication” of secondary threats.
The Daily Beast previously reported that the FBI, which had taken over the investigation – with the help of other federal agencies – had pledged to “find out what happened today and bring those responsible to justice” . Korneski noted on Saturday that the famous FBI behavioral analysis unit was involved in the investigation.
Drake said Friday night that “tissue that we believe may be leftover” was found at the site, but he could not yet confirm what that meant.
At Saturday’s press conference, US Attorney Donald Cochran called the explosion a “cowardly bombing” and “heinous act”. He said investigators were running all 500 tracks and no arrests had yet been made. The scene was a “puzzle” scattered across several blocks, he added.
“I am confident in the squad we have,” Cochran said. “We will find out the story of that person or these people.”
Duck said saturday that all agencies were working to clean up the crime scene as quickly as possible. To locals worried about their properties in the area, Drake said, “Just know your businesses are safe. We have law enforcement officers at every corner to protect the area. “
Tennessee Governor Bill Lee on Saturday announced that he had asked the White House for federal aid, citing the “gravity and scale” of the explosion which he said damaged 41 companies. Lee also said he visited the site, tweeting that the damage was “shocking” and calling it “a miracle that no resident has been killed”.
“I continue to pray for those who were injured in the blast,” Lee said.
An AT&T central office was also hit by the blast, with a fire reigniting overnight resulting in an evacuation of the building, CBS News reported. As such, on Saturday there were still many residents without power and out of service emergency systems in Tennessee. Several police departments said the outage affected 911 calls.
“Our teams continue to work around the clock on recovery efforts after yesterday morning’s explosion in Nashville,” the company said in a statement Saturday. “We have two portable cell sites in downtown Nashville and many additional portable sites are being deployed in the Nashville area and the region.”
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