The FBI, along with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) has launched a large-scale investigation into an explosion that shook downtown Nashville Friday morning.
The massive blast appears to have been “an intentional act,” police said, as officials pointed to a suspicious vehicle that blew up at approximately 6:30 a.m. local time.
“This appears to have been an intentional act,” Metro Nashville Police Department tweeted. “Law enforcement is closing downtown streets as investigation continues.”
Black smoke and flames were seen early Friday billowing from the area, which is packed with bars, restaurants and other retail establishments and is known as the heart of downtown Nashville’s tourist scene.
Buildings shook in the immediate area and beyond after a loud boom was heard. At least three people were rushed to the hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.
“We’re putting everything we have into finding who was responsible for what’s happened here today,” FBI Assistant Special Agent in Charge Matt Foster told reporters during a Friday afternoon news conference. Chief Drake told reporters at that time that he and his department “don’t feel there’s any concern to the downtown area” anymore.
“Right now, it’s a public safety concern, to make sure everybody is accounted for and to make sure the spread of the fire doesn’t go any further,” Michael Knight, a spokesman for the ATF in Nashville, told The Associated Press.
MNPD, FBI & ATF investigating the 6:30 a.m. explosion on 2nd Ave N linked to a vehicle. This appears to have been an intentional act. Law enforcement is closing downtown streets as investigation continues. pic.twitter.com/YOfMTaKmTH
— Metro Nashville PD (@MNPDNashville) December 25, 2020
Law enforcement officials sealed off the downtown area and police dogs searched the area for any secondary devices. Police said they were also searching buildings in the area.
The Metro Nashville Office of Emergency Management told Nashville television station WKRN that a parked recreational vehicle exploded and damaged several buildings. No injuries were immediately reported. The station also quoted officials as saying the explosion did not seem suspicious. The fire department sent out a tweet asking residents and others to avoid the area.
According to social media posts, the explosion resulted in significant damage to a building that was on fire, with dozens of people evacuated.
“The entire @WKRN studio just shook,” the outlet’s alert desk anchor Josh Breslow tweeted. “Anyone else in Nashville just feel any weird shaking ??”
The entire @WKRN studio just shook. Anyone else in Nashville just feel any weird shaking ??
— Josh Breslow (@JoshBreslowWKRN) December 25, 2020
BREAKING: Large explosion in downtown Nashville "heavy structural damage".. evacuting lofts @ 2nd/Commerce – per Nashville Fire radio traffic – some walking out on their own – glass and steel 'EVERYWHERE' – 2nd/Union staging
— Jason Steen (@jasonashville) December 25, 2020
Buck McCoy, who lives near the area, posted videos on Facebook that show water pouring down the ceiling of his home. Alarms blare in the background and cries of people in great distress ring in the background. A fire is visible in the street outside. McCoy said the windows of his home were entirely blown out.
“All my windows, every single one of them got blown into the next room. If I had been standing there it would have been horrible,” he said.
“It felt like a bomb. It was that big,” he told The Associated Press.
“There were about four cars on fire. I don’t know if it was so hot they just caught on fire, and the trees were all blown apart,” he said.