Nashville Christmas Bombing

An exploding RV did substantial property damage but caused only minor injuries to bystanders.

News of an early-morning explosion in downtown Nashville began spreading nationally around 10 Eastern when police announced that it was “intentional.” The signs thus far don’t point to terrorism but the motive remains unclear.

AP (“Downtown Nashville explosion knocks communications offline“):

A recreational vehicle parked in the deserted streets of downtown Nashville exploded early Christmas morning, causing widespread communications outages that took down police emergency systems and grounded holiday travel at the city’s airport.

Police were responding to a report of shots fired Friday when they encountered the RV blaring a recorded warning that a bomb would detonate in 15 minutes, Metro Nashville Police Chief John Drake said. Police evacuated nearby buildings and called in the bomb squad. The RV exploded shortly afterward, Drake said.

“This morning’s attack on our community was intended to create chaos and fear in this season of peace and hope. But Nashvillians have proven time and time again that the spirit of our city cannot be broken,” Mayor John Cooper said at a news conference after issuing a curfew for the area.

Unless he knows a lot more than authorities are making public, we have no idea what the intention was.

Police believe the blast was intentional but don’t yet know a motive or target, and Drake noted that officials had not received any threats before the explosion.

The chief said investigators at the scene “have found tissue that we believe could be remains, but we’ll have that examined and let you know at that time.” Police could not say whether it potentially came from someone inside the RV.

Here’s where it gets truly interesting:

Surveillance video published on a Twitter account Friday that appeared to be across the street from the blast captured the warning issuing from the RV, “… if you can hear this message, evacuate now,” seconds before the explosion.

The blast sent black smoke and flames billowing from the heart of downtown Nashville’s tourist scene, an area packed with honky-tonks, restaurants and shops. Buildings shook and windows shattered streets away from the explosion near a building owned by AT&T that lies one block from the company’s office tower, a landmark in downtown.

“We do not know if that was a coincidence, or if that was the intention,” police spokesman Don Aaron said. He said earlier that some people were taken to the department’s central precinct for questioning but declined to give details.

AT&T said the affected building is the central office of a telephone exchange, with network equipment in it. The blast interrupted service, but the company declined to say how widespread outages were.

The AT&T outages site showed service issues in middle Tennessee and Kentucky. Several police agencies reported that their 911 systems were down because of the outage, including Knox County, home to Knoxville about 180 miles (290 kilometers) east of Nashville.

The Nashville Tennessean (“Nashville explosion: What we know about downtown explosion on Christmas morning“) adds:

Nashville police and fire crews responded to reports of a suspicious RV parked outside an AT&T building near Second Avenue and Commerce Street just before 6 a.m. Friday.

Upon arrival, police said an officer “had reason” to alert the department’s hazardous devices unit, which was en route, when a “significant explosion” happened.

[…]

Officers and witnesses heard a broadcast coming from the RV giving a dire warning: “Evacuate now. There is a bomb. A bomb is in this vehicle and will explode.”

Another report in the paper (“Exclusive: Nashville explosion witness remembers chilling warning from the RV: ‘A bomb is in this vehicle’“) notes that the recorded voice was a woman’s. Additonally, we have this account:

Betsy Williams, who owns the Melting Pot building on Second Avenue, lived in a loft apartment on the third floor of the building near the center of the blast. […] Williams said she awoke at about 4:30 a.m. Christmas morning after hearing what sounded like multiple rounds of loud, rapid-fire gunshots. Later, after more gunshots, Williams said she called 911.

Then, she said, she heard a repeated warning from the RV. “Evacuate now. There is a bomb. A bomb is in this vehicle and will explode,” she remembers the recorded warning saying.

All three reports have anecdotal accounts from those who witnessed the explosion or were awakened by it.

So, the bomb went off very early Christmas morning in a business district, albeit one that has numerous loft apartments on upper floors. Not only was that a time where the minimum toll on human life would be expected, but there was a loud recording warning people of an impending explosion and counting down the time to detonation. Rather clearly, killing people wasn’t the goal here. Therefore, “terrorism,” at least in the way we’ve gotten accustomed to thinking about it, doesn’t seem to fit.

But we also have multiple reports of gunfire well ahead of the recorded warnings.

Was the blast an elaborate scheme to cover up a murder? If so, it was reckless in the extreme. At least one of the people interviewed for the above stories notes that all of his street-facing windows were blown out by the blast; who knows who might have gotten killed?

The added wrinkle here is the proximity to the AT&T hub. The explosion took out communications to police stations and to AT&T customers for miles and, indeed, in at least parts of two states (Huntsville, Alabama isn’t that far away and had outages) for hours. Was that a coincidence or somehow intentional? I’m leaning toward the former because the blast doesn’t seem to have been followed up by taking advantage of the outage in some way.

I have friends in Nashville and have been there more times than I can count. I’ve almost certainly walked the blast area. It’s across the river from Nissan Stadium and a few blocks from the Country Music Hall of Fame, both of which I’ve been to.

FILED UNDER: Crime
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. CSK says:

    I imagine there’s too little left of the RV to make tracing the ownership possible.

    Is the license plate visible in any of the surveillance footage?

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  2. James Joyner says:

    @CSK: I’ve seen a photo of the RV, although it was at an angle that didn’t show a license plate. But police responded to the scene before the explosion. One presumes they took snapshots of the plate or, if it was missing, the VIN plate.

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  3. OzarkHillbilly says:

    May not have been the main purpose of this bombing but creating chaos and fear were certainly side benefits. As far as this not being terrorism, what else does one call an indiscriminate bombing? The fact that nobody was killed was just luck.

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  4. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @James Joyner: One presumes they took snapshots of the plate or, if it was missing, the VIN plate.

    I would presume no such thing. Having ascertained that the bomb squad was needed, I’m sure their only thought was to GTF outa there.

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  5. CSK says:

    If the human remains found at the scene did indeed belong to the perpetrator, then this was a suicide bombing. But to what end? The whole point of a suicide bombing is to sacrifice yourself to take out as many others as possible. You certainly don’t broadcast a warning to evacuate the area, and you don’t plan the bomb to go off when it’s pretty certain no one will be around to be blown to smithereens.

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  6. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @CSK: Have they actually been identified as human remains? Last I read was they were suspected of being.

    With out a claim of responsibility I have the feeling this is just the opening gambit and that there is more to come, sooner rather than later.

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  7. CSK says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:
    Half the news stories suggest the remains are human, and the other half only that they may be human. At this point, I’m guessing probably human.

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  8. James Joyner says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:

    May not have been the main purpose of this bombing but creating chaos and fear were certainly side benefits. As far as this not being terrorism, what else does one call an indiscriminate bombing?

    Lots of things are scary. Terrorism requires a political motivation. While the criminal code definition (“the unlawful use of force and violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives”) isn’t perfect, it’s reasonable enough.

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  9. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @James Joyner: Terrorism requires a political motivation.

    Got it, thanx. This person was sending a message and in time all will become clear. Of that I am certain.

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  10. Mikey says:

    @CSK:

    I imagine there’s too little left of the RV to make tracing the ownership possible.

    You’d be surprised. The FBI found sizable pieces of the rental truck used in the Oklahoma City federal building bombing–the rear axle, specifically, was found the next day and it was imprinted with the VIN, which led investigators directly to where it was rented–and that bomb was far more powerful than the one in Nashville.

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  11. CSK says:

    @Mikey:
    Thanks for reminding me. It is indeed possible to make an i.d. even from relatively minute pieces of evidence.

    I suspect it has already been established whether the remains are human.

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  12. Sleeping Dog says:

    I find it a bit surprising that an attack knocking out emergency response centers. When I was involved in selling support equipment to similar facilities, it needed to be fully redundant, which usually meant mirrored systems with auto fail over, and needed to connect to at least 2 line providers entering the building from different directions, plus microwave.

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  13. Teve says:

    @Mikey: yeah the VIN is hidden in the engine, transmission, frame, lots of other places.

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  14. ImProPer says:

    @CSK:

    “If the human remains found at the scene did indeed belong to the perpetrator, then this was a suicide bombing.”

    This is what I would guess as well with the information available up to this point.

    “But to what end?”

    If the human tissue angle proves accurate. An individual (or individuals), with a dangerous set of skills that wanted out in a highly visible fashion, but not wanting to take others with themselves? Definitely a unique event, more forensics will be needed to determine any type of motive of course. At this point I would guess this wasn’t terrorism in the classical sense. Possibly an angry citizen that wanted to show their power without necessarily hurting innocents? I’m sure more will be revealed, but
    very intriguing in the interim.

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  15. I knew I had to have been near the blast site, but checking the map more carefully my wife and I ate at the BB King’s Blues Club on that same block a couple of years ago.

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  16. Thomm says:

    Man, the things I have learned coming here for the past 10 or so years. Apparently the IRA was not a terrorist group since they used to broadcast warning before a bomb went off to minimize casualties while damaging property. And, also, a direct attack on our communications infrastructure isn’t possibly terrorism either.

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  17. Sleeping Dog says:

    @Thomm:

    Apparently the IRA was not a terrorist group…

    Please note@James Joyner: above on what is terrorism. In deed the IRA is a terrorist organization because they have a political agenda. At this point there is no indication of a political agenda tied to this bombing, you are assuming facts not in evidence.

    ,,, a direct attack on our communications infrastructure isn’t possibly terrorism either.

    Again, you’re assuming facts not in evidence. At the moment there is no indication that the CO was the intended target.

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  18. CSK says:

    @ImProPer:
    But if you wanted to go out in a spectacular fashion, you could just drive off a cliff, couldn’t you? Or self-immolate? And whoever this was probably didn’t want a big audience, given the time and location–plus the warning that was broadcast.

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  19. gVOR08 says:

    Crazy people do crazy stuff. This may never make much sense of this. And with the paltry information at hand, not much point trying.

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  20. Mister Bluster says:

    @Sleeping Dog:..plus microwave.
    My last day on the job in the landline telephone industry was 2009 so anything I report about the business is dated.
    While microwave circuits were state of the art in 1973 when I started I know that the microwave tower at a GTE Toll Center in Marion, Illinois was removed by 2003 as that was when I noticed that it was gone. Might have been retired for a while before it was taken down. In 1985 I worked with a crew that installed some of the fiber optic cable that ultimately replaced those microwave circuits. I suspect that there were many other toll routes upgraded to fiber optic and towers abandoned over the years.
    While redundancy is a priority with communications circuits it was not 100% when I was splicing the copper wires or placing the fiber optic cables at many small landline Telco Central Offices across the country. Ten or twelve years ago, at one site both transmit and receive circuits of copper and fiber optic cables serving a smaller central office just north of where I live ran perpendicular in several separate ducts under the mainline ROW of the Ilinois Central RR (2 tracks). The bores under the tracks were only a few feet apart and the Central Ofice was just a few hundred feet away. A fiber optic placing crew working in the ROW parallel with the RR tracks cut right through all of the cables. It took Telco repair crews at least 2 days to restore all service working around the clock. They had to stop every time a train came by.

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  21. Sleeping Dog says:

    @Mister Bluster:

    My experience with emergency response centers goes back even further, so microwave may have been an obsolete, but not discontinued technology, so it still needed to accounted for in planning. At that time the centers were looking into multi media contact management, voice, email, text, etc. The RFP came out after I moved on.

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  22. MarkedMan says:

    @gVOR08:

    Crazy people do crazy stuff

    While this is certainly true, as a species we are lucky that it is rare for a crazy person to have the ability to organize at any significant scale, so when someone truly crazy acts out, the damage tends to be limited.

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  23. ImProPer says:

    @CSK:

    Great points, at the moment I get a sense that maybe perpetrator wants everyone to simply be perplexed. If this is the case, I’d have to admit, it was pretty well thought out.

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  24. Teve says:

    Media coverage of emerging events is often pretty wrong for the first few days.

    ReplyReply
  25. Teve says:

    If you just want some entertaining speculation, here you go:

    10,030 views
    Alex Little Profile picture
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    My Authors
    The Nashville Christmas Bombing is incredibly unusual for a few reasons. The facts we think we know so far — and things may change as new information emerges — paint a picture that is different than any other attack on U.S. soil.

    It raises some serious questions.

    A thread 1/x
    First, let’s talk about what makes this attack different.

    This was a successful bombing on U.S. soil in a large metro area. There have not been many of these in the last 40 years: Oklahoma City, Atlanta Olympics, Boston Marathon, Times Square.

    2/x
    Of this list, the Nashville attack is much more like OKC than the rest. There, a moving truck. Here, an RV. The other, smaller attacks involved pressure cooker devices and devices more like pipe bombs. (It also looks to me like there’s a passenger in the RV.)

    3/x
    Image
    So, in terms of the blast and damage, this appears to be the second largest domestic bombing in the US in the past few decades. W

    We’re talking about a powerful explosive — large enough to damage an entire downtown city block. Smaller than OKC, bigger than Boston.

    4/x
    Image
    It isn’t particularly easy to make or source a large car bomb without being detected. (And it’s super hard if the FBI is already watching you.) It’s also expensive and time-consuming. Nichols and McVeigh spent something like 8 months to build the OKC bomb.

    5/x
    All of this is frightening enough. But there’s more. Police confirmed that the RV itself appeared to be broadcasting a loud message over speakers warning people nearby to evacuate because there was a bomb. There was even a countdown.

    6/x
    Part of the warning message was: “If you can hear this message, evacuate now.” And it worked. There were, incredibly, no known deaths. Folks living nearby left their apartments, police swept the streets, and no one died.

    7/x
    It is difficult to overstate how unusual it is for an attack like this to include a warning. That stuff happens in movies. It *doesn’t* generally happen in real life. But it tells us that the attacker(s) didn’t want to cause casualties. This is a critical data point.

    8/x
    Thinking quickly, beside warnings before bombings provided by nation-states (like the leaflets before the atom bomb in Hiroshima, some warnings to Palestinian areas before bombings by Israel), there are few examples of attackers preceding their bombing with a warning.

    9/x
    But it *has* happened before. In 1996, the IRA phoned in a warning to authorities in Manchester about 90 minutes before it exploded a massive bomb. Many were evacuated, but 200 people were injured. Even when it took credit for the bomb, the IRA apologized for the injuries.

    10/x
    The IRA warnings made sense in context. Especially by 1996, the IRA was in a war for hearts and minds. Its leadership knew that massive casualties would ultimately harm its overall goal in Ireland and the UK. It needed to show power but temper it with reason.

    11/x
    Few terror groups possess that same motivation, which is why most bombings aim to cause the most carnage possible. Causing death, chaos, and fostering fear — that’s why a terror group carries out an attack instead of, say, marching in the street.

    12/x
    But whoever did this didn’t have those aims.

    **THIS IS UNUSUAL.**

    People don’t generally load an RV with explosives for a purpose *other* than killing people. But it’s pretty clear evidence that this attacker had one of those rare, *other* motives.

    13/x
    So, here’s the first major question this bombing poses:

    If not to kill people, why explode this bomb in this location in the middle of a major U.S. city?

    There are a few possible answers.

    14/x
    Sometimes, terror attacks target a location not to kill but to send a message. After all, political violence is “political” — it has a goal or, at least, a reason. (I’m going to ignore, for now, the possibility of nihilist, Joker-like violence.)

    15/x
    Symbolic targets like the White House, the Pentagon, the WTC all make sense regardless of any resulting casualties. In attacking those targets, the terrorist sends a clear message that he believes that what those symbols represent should be destroyed.

    16/x
    This attack doesn’t look like a symbolic attack. It appears that the RV was parked where it wanted to be — the middle of 2nd Ave in Nashville in front of an AT&T network switch/data center and across from some not-particularly-notable bars and restaurants.

    17/x
    There is nothing obvious about this location that would send a clear message of the terrorist’s aims and goals. Symbolic terrorism only achieves its aim when the symbols and message are clear. Compare this attack to, say, jihadists exploding a car bomb in a Jewish temple.

    18/x
    I’ve seen the speculation that the symbol here could be the AT&T network. These folks are guessing that the bombers might be crazy folks raging against conspiracy theories about the rollout of 5G wireless networks. And, sure, that’s possible. But not likely.

    19/x
    The crazy-anti-5G-network theory isn’t likely because this attack isn’t clearly linked to the aims of those folks — to the extent they have aims.

    20/x
    If you wanted to explode a bomb to express your displeasure with supposedly mind-altering wireless networks, you’d probably publish a manifesto, too. Or do *something* more obvious to make the link clear.

    There’s none of that here.

    21/x
    So, I think we can rule out both (1) “generalized” terrorism, by which I mean an attack meant to instill fear through causing casualties, and (2) symbolic terrorism, by which I mean an attack that uses violence to send a public message.

    Ok, then what’s left?

    22/x
    There are a few different categories of possible motives still on the table. Let’s call them mundane and dramatic. Let’s start with the mundane.

    23/x
    The most mundane possibility: a dramatic suicide.

    2020 has been a dark year, and it’s possible that someone planned to kill themselves (but not others) on Christmas in the most dramatic way possible.

    24/x
    The fact that recent reports indicate there are remains on the scene certainly make this motive possible.

    And investigators should know soon if the remains are those of the attacker by looking at nearby videos. Did anyone exit the RV after it parked early this morning?

    25/x
    If it’s suicide, then investigators should be able to close the case quickly.

    They should be able to identify the RV or DNA, and there’d be no reason for the attacker to hide his/her identity. There may also be a suicide note or message back at their home/elsewhere.

    26/x
    But I’m leaning against a generic suicide — at least based on what we know now. Why? Because that’s a dramatic way to kill yourself and an unusual place to do it, unless you have other goals or motives.

    27/x
    There are other mundane motives, though. Let’s call these the “private” reasons.

    Private reasons can be as diverse as people themselves. Perhaps that location holds some significance to the attacker. Did he work at AT&T? Have a beef with someone who owns a business there?

    28/x
    If you’re an investigator, you never want to discount a private motive — especially this early in an investigation. People do crazy things for crazy reasons.

    29/x
    But this doesn’t *feel* like a private-motive attack for a few reasons, including the timing, the location, and the collateral consequences.

    And so now I’m going to dip my toe in the more dramatic possibilities.

    29/x
    This attack *feels* dramatic for a few reasons.

    First, consider the timing. This attack was planned for early Christmas morning.

    This is a terrorist’s wet dream. The attack dominates the news on our country’s most peaceful and restful day.

    31/x
    The timing alone suggests that this attack has some broader political/terror motivations or is, at least, part of a larger plan.

    And the other facts don’t yet weigh against those considerations, either.

    32/x
    But there’s much more than the timing.

    The location! Which resulted in serious consequences beyond 2nd Ave. Specifically, the attack damaged what appears to be a major artery of AT&T’s communication network. This is a big, big deal.

    33/x
    If you looked just at the consequences of the attack, you’d guess it was a terror plot.

    Someone has managed to take down phone and internet communications for millions of Americans in the region.

    It was, in other words, a massive infrastructure attack.

    34/x
    Was the loss of a communications network just a coincidence?

    It’s 2020, so I won’t rule anything out. But that’d be a *hell* of a coincidence.

    And I watched Die Hard 2 last night, so that pushes me away from the “it’s a coincidence” theory.

    35/x
    But what if the network disruption *was* the goal?

    Why would someone want to take down a communications network?

    36/x
    There are plenty of reasons.

    But let me discount from the start the types of reasons that drive the plots of blockbusters like Oceans 11 or Die Hard 2.

    Sure, someone could knock out AT&T so they can commit some other crime. But that requires some tough leaps of logic.

    37/x
    Most importantly, we don’t have any evidence that some other nefarious activity is happening as a result of the AT&T downtime. So, I think we can heavily discount the idea that this bombing was merely a distraction from some *other* crime.

    This was it. This was the attack.

    38/x
    Now back to where I began: It is how these pieces fit together that is so unusual.

    39/x
    We have an attacker who has detonated a large bomb, who took steps to avoid casualties, who chose a location notable only for its impact on our communications network, and who has (at least not *yet*) claimed responsibility.

    What explains this mix?

    40/x
    One (admittedly outlandish) possibility: A state-sponsored attack, perhaps by Russia, as part of an escalating tit-for-tat cyberwar.

    41/x
    “Whoa,” you say. “That’s nutty.”

    Sure, it is. Any answer to this riddle is going to be nutty, as I’ve tried to lay out above.

    But this theory both fits the unusual facts here and also conforms to things happening elsewhere in the world.

    42/x
    We know that someone (some sources say Russia, some China) has succeed in a massive cyber attack on U.S. soil.

    It doesn’t matter *who* did it. It matters who the U.S. intel community and the President thinks did it — and whether we have responded since we learned of it.

    43/x
    If the U.S. intel community and military have responded to this cyber attack, one of the things it *might* have done, covertly, is escalate cyberattacks to physical attacks.

    And, if our military did that, the most obvious target is our adversaries’ infrastructure.

    44/x
    And, if such an attack occurred, that adversary (whether Russia, China, or N Korea) might’ve wanted to respond itself.

    But that adversary *also* wouldn’t have wanted casualties, which would be too provocative. Nor would it need to take credit. U.S intel would already know.

    45/x
    But let’s not get carried away.

    The investigation, the direction it takes, and what we learn in the next few days should help us sort out which of these motives was the actual motive.

    There should be more clues soon.

    46/x
    I’m going to divert for a moment to address Mayor Cooper’s comment that this was about fear and that it could’ve caused more casualties but for the good work of MNPD.

    47/x
    It’s certainly true that any bombing is going to cause fear. But there are few precedents for terror groups who try to cause as little fear and as few deaths as possible.

    The recorded warning just isn’t consistent with an attacker(s) whose goal is to instill fear.

    48/x
    And it’s also true that MNPD almost certainly saved lives. But it’s also beyond debate that whoever did this was not motivated by the goal of killing people.

    If they were, they’d pick a different time and place to park their very large, very (very) dangerous bomb.

    49/x
    If you look at similar car bombs elsewhere, you might expect between a dozen to more than a 100 deaths.

    Whoever did this had the capacity to inflict that sort of damage — but *chose* not to. That’s the most notable thing about this attack (with the location a close 2nd).

    50/x
    Since we don’t know much more tonight than we knew earlier today, let’s talk about what investigators are likely doing right now, and how those investigative steps and leads will (hopefully) answer the question of who did this, and why.

    51/x
    This seems obvious, but it’s important to say:

    When we know *who* did this, we’ll learn much more about *why* it was done.

    It’s a lot easier to determine a motive when you have a suspect.

    52/x
    So what are the basic steps that the investigators are taking right now to find the identity of the attacker(s)?

    I’d guess there are three (and a half) major threads they’re following:

    (1) The RV
    (2) The passenger(s) of the RV, and
    (3) The victims

    53/x
    Let’s start w/the victims.

    You’d expect investigators to talk to the residents/business affected and ask if they’d received any threats recently or were embroiled in disputes.

    If so, add those folks to the suspect list.

    I’d be especially interested to hear from AT&T.

    54/x
    Now, of course, the passenger(s) of the RV are the prime suspects. And if we knew who they were, the investigation would be in great shape.

    But even without their name(s), there’s lots investigators should (we hope) already know.

    55/x
    From video surveillance, and possibly evidence on the scene, investigators should (we hope) already know:

    – If the driver (or anyone else) left the RV after parking it.
    – If they did leave, where did they go?
    – If they didn’t leave, can we find their remains?

    56/x
    The answers to these questions, whatever they may be, will tell us a great deal.

    The most important, by far, is whether the attacker(s) left the scene.

    If they didn’t, the focus on suicide and/or a “private motive” will intensify.

    57/x
    Alternatively, if the attacker(s) left the scene, or parked the RV in a location where no surveillance cameras could detect if he/she left the scene, a more sophisticated operation will become more likely. And then we’re squarely in lots-of-unexplained-questions land.

    58/x
    Finally, we’ve got the RV — by far the most important piece of evidence.

    Investigators will try to track its movements in the hours, days, and weeks before the attack. They’ve already released a good photo, and let’s hope they have other good video from downtown.

    59/x
    From the photos and videos they already have, investigators will know the make, model, and possibly production year of the RV — all of this will narrow the search for it considerably. High quality video may even capture the plates.

    60/x
    In addition to the possible surveillance videos, which hopefully can help trace the RVs route — at least downtown — there are likely to be many leads from people in the public who may have seen it in the past few days.

    61/x
    Less likely given the size of the blast, but still possible, is that investigators at the scene will find a part of the RV that will help identify it.

    Given the explosion, I’d say they’re focusing more on prior photos, videos, and witnesses who may have seen it.

    62/x
    However they identify it, investigators are going to focus on finding out as much as possible about the RV.

    Who owned it? Was it rented? When? Reported stolen? If so, how long ago and where?

    The answers to those questions will determine where the investigators look next.

    63/x
    So, for close readers, what’s the 1/2 major thread left for investigators to follow?

    Intelligence reports + claims of responsibility.

    When someone commits an attack like this, they and people around them tend to talk. Investigators will be listening, hoping for a break

    64/x
    This can happen two ways.

    For the criminal/terrorist himself, they might want to brag about what they’ve one. Even if they don’t take public credit, they want their buddies to know what they’ve done.

    These loose lips can become solid leads.

    65/x
    Almost as useful, and certainly much more common, is a friend, family member, or jilted paramour who — after the fact — connects the dots and starts to tell *their* friends and associated.

    This is how the Unabomber got busted … eventually.

    66/x
    And… 66 tweets later, I think that’s it for now.

    Hopeful that investigators made major progress today and can tell us something positive tomorrow.

    67/x

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  26. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Teve:
    I keep going back to the planning. It’s like something I’d write, not something real world normal. I don’t buy foreign actors, I think it’s entirely domestic. Part of the problem with making political sense of it is that politics no longer makes sense in a world of nut jobs with insane conspiracy theories.

    I have a hard time believing the location is incidental. What are the odds of a randomly parked bomb hurting a communications hub? And there is still the possibility of insurance fraud, or even an overwrought murder cover-up.

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  27. Teve says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    Part of the problem with making political sense of it is that politics no longer makes sense in a world of nut jobs with insane conspiracy theories.

    indeed, a friend just said the QAnoners are claiming Dominion voting machines from swing states were being audited in that AT&T building and this is part of a Deep State/Democrat coverup.

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  28. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    That’s been my take. The fundamental questions in my mind were and still are “Why a relatively minor city like Nashville, and why that particular street / in front of that particular building?”

    At first glance my thought was that this has grudge / grievance written all over it. It’ll be interesting to see how it plays out.

    (and why, if they have surveillance video basically on top of the thing exploding don’t they also have surveillance video of the nutjobs dropping it off – or of them never getting out of it?)

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  29. Sleeping Dog says:

    @Teve:

    He seemed pretty methodical till he got to about post 40 and went all Q-anon by settling on, it was an attack on the ATT building and began hyper ventilating. He also dismisses too casually the concept of a dramatic suicide and doesn’t mention the possibility of cover for a murder, with the reports of gunshots, murder can’t be discounted yet.

    It is really easy to get to far out in front of the known facts and educated speculation by the professionals on the scene, which is what Alex is doing.

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  30. Teve says:

    @HarvardLaw92: I only saw one clip of surveillance video but it was very unhelpful.

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  31. Sleeping Dog says:

    The following is entirely supposition and speculation.

    From the video footage and picture I saw it appears that the truck was parked across the street from the CO and partly across from the parking garage.

    The bomb will dramatic, wasn’t powerful enough to knock down the nearby historical buildings. But it did have one hell of a fireball.

    Which has me thinking it was a propane explosion. An RV that size would likely have 20-40lbs. of propane on board and about 40 gallons of gasoline. Use the microwave timer as a fuse that turns on the microwave causing a spark, allow the RV to fill with propane gas and boom.

    Motive, not enough info to guess.

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  32. al Ameda says:

    My initial thought is that it was a suicide, designed to send a message. That eventually they (law enforcement) will identify the vehicle and the owner, and there will turn out to be some kind of online presence to explain it, a ‘manifesto.’

    You know, 2020 is turning out to be a very strange and warped year, a slow motion deconstruction – sort of 1968 redux, but without the political assassinations. Strange times.

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  33. Gustopher says:

    Another fact: they parked far enough away from Hooters that it was spared from most of the damage.

    I doubt it’s a particularly relevant fact, but it is a fact.

    My expectation is that it is going to turn out to be someone mad at AT&T for a billing issue, timed at Christmas because they weren’t going to be able to afford to buy Christmas presents, or because they thought an exploding RV would be someone’s Christmas present. No one gets mad enough at the Spaghetti Factory to want to blow it up, but that’s because no one has had to deal with interminable phone trees and customer support at the Spaghetti Factory.

    Or QAnon related. Surely the police investigating will find the children in the basement of The Spaghetti Factory.

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  34. dazedandconfused says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    Yes, unlikely anyone would go through all the trouble to create a massive bomb and carefully select the time when the fewest persons would be hurt, create a warning tape..but then decide to do it just anywhere. Best guess is the target was ATT.

    Going way out on a rotten limb of speculation: Terrorism would be the wrong word. It looks more like revenge, which was what Tim McVeigh sought, and it appears he or she followed that model. Possibly a disgruntled ex-employee.

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  35. dazedandconfused says:

    @HarvardLaw92:

    Indeed. If they have video of the perps they wouldn’t want the perps to know they have it, not until they have them in custody.

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  36. Liberal Capitalist says:

    Occam’s razor:

    * It was made and expoloded because it could be.

    * A person has not been found (yet) because it is still relatively easy to hide your actions.

    If you can make a bomb and blow it up, there are some that will do so, because they can. More reason than that is not required.

    This is why I have little hope for humanity, in the long run.

    And since reality, as for as I am concerned, only exists in my lifetime, it the mega-lunatic can hold off for 30 years, then cool with me. All our generation has been living on teh edge of a knife… so nothing’s changed.

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  37. CSK says:
  38. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @CSK:

    Hard to tell whether he carried a grudge against AT&T or this was just a disaffected loner who picked that spot at random from which to leave the world. I want to hear more about the prior tips to the FBI concerning this guy.

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  39. CSK says:

    @HarvardLaw92:
    CNN is reporting that it seems to have been a suicide bombing. An FBI agent (unnamed) says they are not looking for another suspect.

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  40. Andy says:

    @Teve:

    I should be pretty well known here as one bordering on being a free speech zealot. But I have to admit that there is a special place in hell for people who insist on “writing” a 60+ part Twitter thread instead of writing some coherent prose and then linking it. People who chose to do the former really should be put in the stockade and receive an equal number of lashes to their tweetstorm.

    Anyway, it’s too early to tell. There’s not enough data and performative zero-evidence speculation is dumb especially when done on f’ing Twitter, the social media version of pancreatic cancer.

    @CSK:

    Heavy.com in recent years seems to be pretty good about putting coherent facts together. I’ll still wait for all the facts before definitive conclusions, but it’s looking more like a depressed white guy performative suicide than anything else.

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  41. Teve says:

    @Andy:

    I should be pretty well known here as one bordering on being a free speech zealot. But I have to admit that there is a special place in hell for people who insist on “writing” a 60+ part Twitter thread instead of writing some coherent prose and then linking it.

    That was my reaction for several years. I was downright hostile to that method. But I’ve spent so many hundreds of hours on Twitter in the last 10 years that it’s become normal to me. I’ve acclimated to it.

    IIRC, some young adults in Japan have written entire novels in SMS format.

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