500 tips come in as FBI investigates Christmas Day explosion in Nashville – USA TODAY

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NASHVILLE – One day after an RV exploded and rocked downtown Nashville, federal law enforcement officials say 500 leads and tips are being investigated.

A person of interest has been identified in connection with the Christmas day explosion, a law enforcement source confirmed to The (Nashville) Tennessean – part of the USA TODAY Network – on Saturday. 

Douglas Korneski, FBI special agent in charge of the Memphis Field Office, would not identify any suspects at a Saturday afternoon press conference.

The scene of the explosion presents “quite a challenge” to bomb technicians, said Donald Cochran, United States Attorney for the Middle District of Tennessee. It’s like a “giant jigsaw puzzle created by a bomb that throws pieces of evidence across multiple city blocks.”

Police also found what they believe are human remains but have not yet confirmed any fatalities. It is still unclear whether the remains were that of anyone involved in the Christmas Day blast. The FBI and ATF have taken taken the lead in the investigation.  

“This was a terrible day, but Nashville has faced other challenges, particularly this year,” Nashville Mayor John Cooper said late Friday. “We can rebuild and get back to normal. This morning’s attack on our community was intended to create chaos and fear in this season of peace and hope, but the spirit of our city cannot be broken.”

‘Evacuate now. There is a bomb’:Human remains reportedly found near explosion in Nashville that damaged 41 buildings, injured 3

Gov. Bill Lee requested emergency aid from the White House on Saturday because of the “severity and magnitude of the current situation.”

“This morning I toured the site of the bombing,” Lee said in a tweet. He toured the premises with his wife, Maria, who he says recently recovered from COVID-19. “The damage is shocking and it is a miracle that no residents were killed.”

He also expressed gratitude to local and federal authorities for their courage and leadership amid the crisis.

At least 41 businesses in the area were damaged in the explosion. Three people were hospitalized with injuries, but all were in stable condition, authorities said.

Betsy Williams, owner of The Melting Pot, a restaurant across the street from the explosion, told The Tennessean, part of the USA TODAY Network, that guests reported the RV was stationed in the area since Thursday night.

She heard a warning in the moments leading up to the explosion: “Evacuate now. There is a bomb. A bomb is in this vehicle and will explode,” she recalled. Then, she said, the voice started a 15-minute countdown.

Nashville police released an image of an RV that investigators linked to an explosion that took place downtown on Christmas morning.

At least six Nashville police officers acted quickly to start evacuating people from nearby buildings. They were praised by city officials; Cooper called them “heroes.” 

Cochran on Saturday praised law enforcement officials who “didn’t run away from danger – literally ran to danger.” He said their actions to evacuate the area before the explosion helped saved lives.

Cochran called the “individual or individuals” behind the explosion the “ultimate scrooge.”

Late Friday, Nashville police released a screenshot of security footage recorded of the RV.  Authorities are asking members of the public with information on the vehicle to contact police.

Flights also resumed Friday after being temporarily halted by Nashville International Airport because of telecommunications issues linked to the explosion.

AT&T continued to report outages in parts of Tennessee and Kentucky because of damage in a building with network equipment inside. “Given the damage to our facility it will take time to restore service,” the company said in a statement Friday evening.

Restoration efforts have been hindered by additional damage, including a fire that “reignited overnight and led to the evacuation of the building.”

T-Mobile also reported service outages in Nashville and throughout the South, including in Louisville, Knoxville, Birmingham and Atlanta.

By Saturday morning, two portable cell sites were operating in downtown Nashville, while others were being deployed in affected areas.

Contributing: Associated Press.

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