NASHVILLE — An explosion rocked downtown Nashville on Christmas morning, sending smoke rising high above the city, blowing out store windows and forcing evacuations. The authorities said they believed the explosion was an “intentional” act.
No one was killed, but three people were injured and taken to hospitals, officials said at a news conference on Friday.
The authorities said the explosion happened at 6:30 a.m. outside 166 2nd Ave. N in downtown Nashville in an area with honky-tonks, restaurants and boot stores and often packed with tourists, but which was quiet on a holiday morning.
The police responded to reports of gunshots around 5:30 a.m., according to Don Aaron, a spokesman for the Metropolitan Nashville Police Department. While investigating the gunshots, they encountered an R.V. that was broadcasting a recording that said a “potential bomb would detonate within 15 minutes,” said Chief John Drake of the Metropolitan Nashville Police Department.
Officers called in a hazardous devices unit, or bomb squad, which was en route when the vehicle exploded. Officers were also evacuating nearby apartment buildings when the R.V. exploded.
“We think lives were saved by those officers doing just that,” Mr. Aaron said.
It is still unclear if a person was inside the R.V. when it exploded, he said. The R.V. was parked outside an AT&T transmission building in downtown Nashville, a separate building from the landmark 33 story AT&T office tower less than half a mile away, and Mr. Aaron said it is unclear whether that was intentional or a coincidence. AT&T is experiencing an outage in the area because gas lines have been shut off in the area, impacting the building’s backup natural gas generators.
The Federal Aviation Administration temporarily halted flights out of the Nashville International Airport “due to telecommunications issues associated with this morning’s incident in downtown,” the airport said on Friday afternoon.
A photo of the R.V. was released on Twitter by the Metropolitan Nashville Police Department Friday afternoon. The R.V. arrived on 2nd Ave. North at 1:22 a.m., according to the post.
F.B.I. Memphis, in coordination with state and local law enforcement, was taking the lead in the investigation. “Acting Attorney General Jeff Rosen was briefed on the incident early this morning and directed that all DOJ resources be made available to assist in the investigation,” a Justice Department spokesman said in a statement. Mr. Rosen became the acting attorney general on Wednesday after William P. Barr stepped down.
The federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives said that it was joining the investigation and Chad F. Wolf, the acting secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, had been briefed.
Mayor John Cooper said at a news conference that the area looked like a “bomb went off.” “Don’t come to downtown Nashville. It’s going to be sealed off,” Mr. Cooper said, adding that had…
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