The RV that blew up in Nashville on Friday morning was playing a recording that warned it was going to explode, the city’s police chief said.
The recording said “a potential bomb would detonate within 15 minutes,” Metro Nashville Police Chief John Drake said during an afternoon news conference.
Officers who had responded to reports of shots fired in the area “decided to evacuate the buildings nearby” and were knocking on doors when the RV exploded, Drake said.
No evidence of a Christmas Day shooting was uncovered before the cops came upon the RV, officials have said.
Meanwhile, an unconfirmed YouTube video clip titled “Nashville Explosion” appears to contain audio of the recording, with a female voice urging people to flee just before the blast.
“All buildings in this area must be evacuated now. All buildings in this area must be evacuated now,” the voice says.
“If you can hear this message, evacuate now. If you can hear this message, evacuate now.”
At that point, a loud boom is heard and the screen — which was showing a fish-eye view of a sidewalk and vehicles parked along a street — goes white.
Drake said bomb-sniffing dogs were scouring the area around the blast scene at Second Avenue North and Commerce Street, but added that authorities don’t believe there are any more devices nearby.
Also during the news conference, police spokesman Don Aaron said authorities don’t know if anyone “was in the RV when it exploded.”
No bodies have been found, he said.
At least three people were hurt in the blast and are being treated for injuries that aren’t considered life-threatening.
A cop at the scene was also knocked to the ground when the RV blew up.
Several people who were taken to a local police precinct are considered witnesses, Aaron said.
Officials didn’t say if the blast was being treated as an act of terror, but Nashville US Attorney Don Cochran said the “entire resources of the Department of Justice” were being devoted to the investigation.
FBI Assistant Special Agent in Charge Matt Foster said authorities were processing the massive crime scene for evidence and urged anyone with information to contact the feds by phone or through a special webpage at http://www.fbi.gov/nashville.
“We will find out what happened,” he vowed.
The explosion took place outside an AT&T transmission building, leading to widespread outages of phone service — including some 911 lines — and internet access, according to the Tennessean.
The disruptions are concentrated in the Nashville area and the Middle Tennessee region but have also been reported around the county, the Tennessean said.
AT&T spokesman Jim Greer confirmed the outages were tied to “damage to our facilities from the explosion” but declined to elaborate.
“We are in contact with law enforcement and working as quickly and safely as possible to restore service,” Greer said in a prepared statement.
Nashville cops said the blast took place outside 166 Second Ave. North, a historic building that’s home to the Rhea Building Lofts and several ground-level businesses.
The building immediately to the right is unmarked and has solid front doors without any hardware and bars covering its ground-floor windows, according to a March 2019 image on Google Maps.