NASHVILLE, Tenn. – A tip, a hat and a pair of gloves provided all the evidence authorities needed to identify the remains of a man they say triggered the bomb that rocked this city and took his own life on Christmas morning.
David Rausch, director of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, said Monday that a tip from the public put Anthony Quinn Warner on law enforcement radar and that DNA from gloves and a hat retrieved from a car Warner owned help confirm the identification.
“He was not on our radar,” Rausch said. “Calls that came in from the public were absolutely key to identification, at least with a name, a direction the investigation could take.”
Authorities are still trying to determine why Warner set off the bomb.
Warner’s body was essentially incinerated by the force of the blast when his recreational vehicle exploded on a quiet, downtown street, injuring three bystanders. DNA found at the scene was used to identify him, Rausch said.
Moments before the blast, a speaker system broadcast a warning to evacuate the area. Officers at the scene before the explosion said the speakers also played the 1960s hit song “Downtown” by Petula Clark. The lyrics, describing downtown as a place to seek refuge from sadness, begin with “when you’re alone, and life is making you lonely, you can always go downtown.”
Man identified as Christmas Day bomber: Anthony Quinn Warner
Police, acting on the RV’s warnings, evacuated several people from the area. Warner was the only fatality, but more than 40 buildings were damaged. Rausch reiterated Monday that Warner acted alone.
Still, this sprawling, fast-growing metro area of 2 million people is on edge. The driver of a box truck parked outside a convenience store in neighboring Rutherford County was arrested on felony charges Sunday after loudly playing audio “similar to what was heard” in the moments before Friday’s blast.
Tennessee Highway Patrol sent a robot to probe the truck. No explosive device was found, but the investigation closed a local highway for five hours Sunday, Wilson County Sheriff’s Capt. Scott Moore said.
James Turgeon, 33, was charged with two counts of felony filing a false report and one count of tampering with evidence and held on $500,000 bond.
“There is no connection other than the individual taking advantage of the situation,” Rausch said Monday.
The focus of the explosion investigation remains on Warner, 63, a longtime Nashville-area resident. The RV was parked near an AT&T building downtown when the blast occurred. Warner’s father once worked for AT&T, and Rausch said the possibility that AT&T was targeted is one possibility being investigated.
The building was severely damaged, disrupting internet, phone and emergency service communication across multiple states. Retailers were also affected – Walmart confirmed that outages affected multiple stores, and shoppers took to social media to report Walmart closures in some locations, while other locations accepted only cash.
Warner had held several IT jobs, and public records show he had extensive experience with electronics and alarm systems. He recently worked as an independent computer technician with the real estate firm Fridrich & Clark.
Federal agents have searched his home in Antioch and the Fridrich & Clark real estate office in Nashville for clues to Warner’s mental state.
A neighbor, Steve Schmoldt, described Warner as “kind of low key to the point of, I don’t know, I guess some people would say he’s a little odd.” Warner had placed lights and security cameras outside his home. He built a fence around his yard himself, Schmoldt told The Tennessean, part of the USA TODAY Network.
“You never saw anyone come and go,” Schmoldt said of Warner’s home. “Never saw him go anywhere. As far as we knew, he was kind of a computer geek that worked at home.”
Another neighbor, Rick Laude, recalled a conversation he had with Warner less than a week before Christmas. Laude said he saw Warner standing at his mailbox and pulled over in his car to talk. After asking how Warner’s elderly mother was doing, Laude said he casually asked, “Is Santa going to bring you anything good for Christmas?”
Warner smiled and said, “Oh, yeah, Nashville and the world is never going to forget me,” Laude recalled.
Laude said he didn’t think much of the remark and thought Warner only meant that “something good” was going to happen for him financially.
“Nothing about this guy raised any red flags,” Laude said. “He was just quiet.”
Anthony Quinn Warner: Nashville bomber was self-employed IT professional
Warner had recent legal issues. Court records show he became enmeshed in a family dispute after he transferred ownership of a second family home to himself about one month before his brother died in 2018. The case was dismissed in October 2019 at the mother’s request. Family lawyer Yancy Belcher declined comment.
Court records also show a deed transfer of Warner’s residence from Warner to an individual with a Los Angeles address on Nov. 25 for $0.
Doug Korneski, the special agent in charge of the FBI’s Memphis field office, requested people who knew Warner to contact police and share information while authorities investigate “any and all motives.”
Schmoldt said it appears Warner didn’t want to hurt anyone else.
“But if that’s the case, what other message is there?” Schmoldt said. “They have to figure out some kind of motive.”
Bacon reported from McLean, Virginia. Contributing: Natalie Allison, Brinley Hineman and Adam Tamburin, The Tennessean; The Associated Press