An explosion shook the largely deserted streets of downtown Nashville early Christmas morning, shattering windows, damaging buildings and wounding three people. Authorities said they believed the blast was intentional. The FBI is leading the investigation.
Metropolitan Nashville Police Department spokesperson Don Aaron said police responded to a call of shots fired just before 6 a.m. local time but found no immediate signs of a shooting, although officers noticed a suspicious vehicle and called for a hazardous unit. While they waited, the vehicle exploded.
Aaron said three people were taken to area hospitals for treatment, although none were in critical condition. He said some people were taken to the department’s central precinct for questioning but declined to give more details.
The FBI will be taking the lead in the investigation, said spokesperson Joel Siskovic. The FBI is the primary law enforcement agency responsible for investigating federal crimes, such as explosives violations and acts of terrorism. Federal investigators from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives were also on the scene.
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.
‘It felt like a bomb’
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 out. A fire is visible in the street outside. McCoy said he heard gunfire 15 minutes before the explosion rocked his building. The windows of his home were entirely blown out, he said.
“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 told The Associated Press. “It felt like a bomb. It was that big.”
“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.”
U.S. President Donald Trump has been briefed, according to White House spokesperson Judd Deere, who said that Trump, who is spending the holidays in Florida, will continue to receive regular updates. The U.S. Justice Department said acting Attorney General Jeff Rosen was also briefed and directed all department resources be made available to help with the investigation.
Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee said on Twitter that the state would provide the resources necessary “to determine what happened and who was responsible. Please join @MariaLeeTN and me in praying for those who were injured and we thank all of our first responders who acted so quickly this morning.”
Nashville Mayor John Cooper said the city was lucky that the number of injuries was limited.