(Reuters) -Federal, state and local law enforcement officers on Monday were searching for the motive behind a bombing that rocked Nashville on Christmas morning, with no concrete clues yet emerging as to why the 63-year-old suspect carried out his suicide mission.
The FBI on Sunday identified the suspect as Anthony Q. Warner and said he died in the blast, which damaged more than 40 businesses in downtown Nashville, Tennessee’s largest city and the United States’ country music capital.
Warner’s motor home exploded at dawn on Friday soon after police, who were responding to reports of gunfire, heard music and an automated message emanating from the vehicle warning of a bomb. Police hurried to evacuate people in the area, and Warner is the only person known to have perished.
David Rausch, director of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, said on Monday that Warner’s mother was cooperating with the multiagency investigation but that motive remained elusive. The TBI released Warner’s criminal history, showing a single marijuana charge more than four decades ago.
“He was not on our radar,” Rausch told a news briefing, explaining that the TBI was helping the FBI and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) to interview neighbors and relatives. “We are all taking pieces of the puzzle, working to determine what the motivation was for this individual.”
The bombing took place in the early morning when there was little activity in the city. In addition to the warning, the audio on Warner’s recreational vehicle played a recording of Petula Clark’s 1964 hit “Downtown” before the blast.
Nashville Mayor John Cooper has said that local officials felt there had to be some connection between the bombing, which occurred near an AT&T Inc transmission building on the city’s bustling Second Avenue, and the company. At the briefing on Monday, Rausch said Warner’s father had worked for AT&T but that it was unclear if that was in any way connected.
“So far the interviews conducted and evidence collected indicate he was the only one responsible for this act,” FBI agent Jason Pack said in an interview, adding that it could take weeks before a motive could be determined.
One the avenues investigators are pursuing is the nature of Warner’s suspected mental health problems, according to a person familiar with the investigation.
Nashville Councilman At-Large Bob Mendes said that while it seems Warner took steps with the warning to limit deaths, the bombing was likely to be labeled domestic terrorism once the suspect’s agenda becomes clear.
“You don’t go out of your way to build a bomb this big,” said Mendes, a lawyer. “He had to have had a callous disregard for whether there would be a loss of life.”
The explosion injured three people and disrupted mobile, internet and TV services across central Tennessee and parts of four other states. AT&T said on Monday that it had restored services to nearly all impacted homes.
Among other steps, investigators searched Warner’s home on Saturday and visited Fridrich & Clark Realty, a Nashville real estate agency where he had worked part-time, providing computer consulting services before retiring earlier this month.
“The Tony Warner we knew is a nice person who never exhibited any behavior which was less than professional,” Steve Fridrich, owner of the real estate firm, said in a statement.
Speaking to Fox News on Monday, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee described the damage in Nashville as “enormous” and said he expected President Donald Trump would shortly grant his request to declare a state of emergency to assist the state.
(Reporting by Nathan Layne in Wilton, Conn., and Mark Hosenball and Susan Heavey in WashingtonEditing by Jonathan Oatis and Matthew Lewis)