A recreational vehicle exploded outside an AT&T facility in downtown Nashville early Christmas morning after broadcasting an eerie warning, "If you can hear this message, evacuate now.”
Three people suffered minor injuries.
The powerful blast left behind stunning destruction — buildings were structurally damaged, cars on fire, windows blown out, and trees destroyed.
Flights out of Nashville airports were halted, and police communication systems in the region were down as a result of the blast, the Associated Press reported.
A motive isn't known at this time, law enforcement officials said, and no one is in custody. FBI Special Agent in Charge Matt Foster said the agency is “putting everyone we have into finding who was responsible for what happened here today. There are investigative leads to be pursued.” He added, "We need your leads. We need your help.”
Police said that the RV arrived in the downtown area around 1:22 a.m. local time.
Police responded to a call about shots fired at 5:30 a.m. One witness told the AP he had heard gunfire before the explosion.
The officers "encountered an RV with a recording saying a potential bomb would detonate within 15 minutes," Nashville Chief of Police John Drake said. “There were announcements coming from the RV.”
Police began going house to house, knocking on doors, making announcements, and trying to evacuate people.
"Shortly after that," Drake said, "the RV exploded."
"We think lives were saved" in the evacuations, he said.
The blast was impactful enough to knock a nearby officer off his feet.
"The department’s Hazardous Devices Unit was called to check the RV. As those officers were en route, the vehicle exploded outside an AT&T transmission building. Multiple buildings on 2nd Avenue were damaged, some extensively," police said in a news release.
Nearby surveillance video captured the announcement and subsequent explosion.
The AT&T building housed a telephone exchange. The company's main office building is nearby.
Drake said it's unclear if anyone was inside the RV at the time of the blast.
Police have “no information about any body being found. We do not know whether anyone was in the RV when it exploded," he said. “We know of no other imminent danger to the city at this point.”
“Several of the buildings on Second Avenue have structural damage," Drake said, and the fire department is trying to secure those buildings and check others.
Several people were brought to a precinct to provide information, he said.
"Service for some customers in Nashville and the surrounding areas may be affected by damage to our facilities from the explosion this morning. We are in contact with law enforcement and working as quickly and safely as possible to restore service," AT&T spokesperson Jim Greer said.