Nashville bombing investigation prompts FBI to search home

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - Federal agents met Saturday at the home of a possible person interested in the blast that rocked downtown Nashville when investigators searched hundreds of tips and clues in the blast that damaged dozen of buildings on Christmas morning.
More than 48 hours after the explosion, a motive remained elusive as investigators worked around the clock to clear unanswered questions about a recreational vehicle that exploded on a sleepy holiday morning on a largely deserted street after a recorded warning sent the in had asked people in the vicinity to evacuate.
The attack that damaged an AT&T building continued to affect cell phone service, police and hospital communications in several southern states as the company worked to restore service.
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According to FBI special agent Jason Pack, investigators from multiple federal and local law enforcement agencies came to the Nashville suburban home in Antioch on Saturday after receiving information pertinent to the investigation. Another law enforcement officer, who was not empowered to discuss an ongoing investigation and spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity, said investigators considered a person related to the property to be a person of interest.
Federal agents looked around the property and searched the house and back yard. A Google Maps image captured in May 2019 showed a similar recreational vehicle parked in the back yard. An AP reporter at the crime scene did not see the vehicle on the property late Saturday afternoon.
There was other evidence of progress in the investigation when the FBI revealed it was investigating a number of people who may be connected to it. Officials also said no additional explosive devices were found - indicating that there is no active threat to the area. The investigators received around 500 tips and hints.
"It will only take time," said Douglas Korneski, the special agent in charge of the FBI's Memphis branch, at a press conference on Saturday afternoon. "Our investigation team is turning every stone" to understand who did this and why.
Investigators said they were working to identify human remains that were found at the crime scene. In addition, the only known victims were three injured.
The damage to the infrastructure was meanwhile generally felt as an AT&T headquarters was affected by the explosion. The emergency police systems in Tennessee, Kentucky, and Alabama, as well as the Nashville COVID-19 community hotline and a handful of hospital systems, remained out of service.
The building contained a switchboard with network equipment - but the company refused to say exactly how many people were affected.
When asked whether the AT&T building could have been a possible target, Korneski said: "We are looking into every possible motive that could be involved."
Investigators closed the heart of downtown Nashville's tourist scene - an area filled with honky tonks, restaurants, and shops - when they shuffled through broken glass and damaged buildings to learn more about the explosion.
Mayor John Cooper has put a downtown curfew through Sunday to restrict public access. More than 40 buildings were affected.
AT&T announced Sunday that the service had been diverted to other facilities as the company worked to restore its badly damaged building. The company announced in a statement that it is providing resources to restore affected voice and data services and expects to have 24 additional trailers of disaster recovery equipment available on site by the end of the day.
The restoration work faced several challenges, including a fire that forced their teams to work with security and civil engineers and drill access holes in the building to restore power.
Ray Neville, president of technology at T-Mobile, said on Twitter Saturday that Louisville, Nashville, Knoxville, Birmingham and Atlanta are experiencing disruptions. "We continue to see business interruptions in these areas ... Restoration efforts will continue around the clock and we will keep you updated on the progress," he said.
The outages had temporarily suspended flights at Nashville International Airport, but service resumed normally from Saturday. The Federal Aviation Association has since placed a temporary flight restriction around the airport requiring pilots to adhere to strict procedures by December 30th.
Metro Nashville police chief John Drake responded to a report of gunfire on Friday when they stumbled upon the RV and issued a pre-recorded warning that a bomb would explode in 15 minutes. The police evacuated nearby buildings and called the bomb squad. The motor home exploded shortly afterwards.
Associate press photographer Mark Humphrey in Nashville and writer John Raby in Charleston, West Virginia, contributed to this report.

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