Nashville police were able to usher people to safety before an explosion rocked downtown Nashville on Christmas morning in what authorities are calling a deliberate act, while a warning message was broadcast urging people to evacuate moments before the blast.
Officers with the Metro Nashville Police Department carried out door-to-door and apartment-to-apartment checks and managed to get people to safety shortly before the blast, according to statements made at a press conference.
There was a loudspeaker warning people to clear the area before the massive blast, according to a Metro Nashville Police spokesperson and surveillance footage.
“All buildings in this area must be evacuated now,” a voice could be heard in the video. “If you can hear this message, evacuate now,” the warning continued, before the blast occurred.
The explosion shattered windows, damaged buildings, and wounded three civilians.
One officer was knocked down to the ground by the explosion, while another had temporary hearing loss, police said at the presser. No officer sustained serious injuries in the incident, police said.
Police spokesman Don Aaron said three people were taken to area hospitals for treatment, although none were in critical condition. He added that the 6:30 a.m. blast was believed to be “an intentional act.”
Police earlier said they believe a vehicle was involved in the explosion and at the presser said they are unsure whether there was anyone inside the vehicle, said to be an RV.
Metro police said in a statement that canine teams are doing protective sweeps in the downtown area and that traffic downtown is restricted.
The FBI will be taking the lead in the investigation, according to spokesman Joel Siskovic. Federal investigators from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives were also on the scene. The FBI is the primary law enforcement agency responsible for investigating federal crimes, such as explosives violations and acts of terrorism.
Officers were responding to a shots fired call in downtown Nashville when they spotted a suspicious RV and called the bomb squad, according to a press release.
While the bomb squad was heading to the scene, the RV exploded, the press release said.
President Donald Trump has been briefed on the explosion, according to White House deputy spokesperson Judd Deere.
“The President is grateful for the incredible first responders and praying for those who were injured,” Deere said.
Acting Attorney General Jeff Rosen was also briefed on the incident, according to Justice Department spokesperson Marc Raimondi.
Buck McCoy, who lives near the area, posted videos on Facebook that show water pouring down the ceiling of his home. Alarms were heard blaring in the background and cries of people in distress rang out in the background. A fire was 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.
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.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.