A quiet Christmas morning in Nashville was interrupted by a suicide bomber, identified by the FBI as Anthony Quinn Warner, whose RV played music and sounded warnings of an imminent explosion before he detonated it into a massive fireball.
Speculation about a possible motive has largely centered on the severe damage the explosion did to AT&T services across Tennessee and the wider region as well as confirmation that the FBI is looking into whether Warner may have been driven by conspiracy theories about fifth generation wireless networks known as 5G.
Around 5 a.m. on Friday morning, the Metro Nashville Police Department responded to reports of shots fired and came upon a large RV parked just outside an AT&T station on Second Avenue in downtown Nashville since 1:22 a.m. The RV began to play a loud warning that a bomb would be exploding in 15 minutes, with the recording also bizarrely playing Petula Clark’s cheerful 1964 pop hit “Downtown” before detonating in a blast that sent debris flying and did serious damage to numerous nearby buildings, in addition to creating a crater in the street and causing other cars to burst into flames too. The explosion hospitalized three people and damaged dozens of businesses, though no one besides Warner was killed. Internet and cellular service went down across the region for days.
“We’ve come to the conclusion that Anthony Warner is the bomber,” Donald Cochran, U.S. attorney for the Middle District of Tennessee, said Sunday. “He was present when the bomb went off, and he perished in the bombing.”
Warner, 63, was the son of Charles “Popeye” Warner, who died in 2011, and Betty Lane, 85. He grew up and lived in Antioch, Tennessee, outside of Nashville, recently gifting his house on Bakerstown Road to Los Angeles-based entertainment executive Michelle Swing, 29, who has since deleted all of her social media. After graduating from Antioch High School, Warner worked a number of IT jobs, according to the Tennessean, occasionally being hired for freelance computer repair work.
FBI special agent Jason Pack first told the Tennessean that investigators visited Fridrich & Clark Realty in the Nashville neighborhood of Green Hills on Saturday evening as part of their investigation. Its owner, Steve Fridrich, told the Washington Examiner that Warner worked as an independent contractor there for several years, on occasion coming into the office to service the company’s computers.
“Earlier this month, he advised us that he was retiring, and Fridrich & Clark has not had any contact with him since that time. Upon learning that Tony is a suspect in the bombing on Second Avenue on Christmas morning, Fridrich & Clark notified the authorities that he had provided IT services to our firm,” Fridrich said. “The Tony Warner we knew is a nice person who never exhibited any behavior which was less than professional.”
Fridrich added that “Tony did not discuss 5G with me.”
News4 in Nashville reported that Fridrich “confirms that agents asked him whether or not Warner had paranoia about 5G technology.” The outlet claimed “a source close to the federal investigation said that among several different tips and angles, agents are investigating whether or not Warner had paranoia that 5G technology was being used to spy on Americans.”
The Daily Mail cited a “source close to the investigation” who said Warner was “heavily into conspiracy theories” and that while “we are waiting on the digital footprint that should finally provide us with some answers … the unofficial motive thus far is the suspect believed 5G was the root of all deaths in the region and he’d be hailed a hero.” The outlet said “agents are also investigating whether Quinn’s paranoia over telecommunications began with the death of his father,” who “died of dementia after spending his career working for BellSouth, a former AT&T subsidiary which re-merged with the company in 2006.”
On Sunday, Nashville Mayor John Cooper told CBS’s Face The Nation that, “to all of us locally, it feels like there has to be some connection with the AT&T facility and the site of the bombing” and “that’s a bit of just local insight in because it’s got to have something to do with the infrastructure.”
If meant to take down AT&T’s services, the suicide bombing was successful. Jeff McElfresh, the CEO of AT&T, said Sunday the AT&T building in downtown Nashville “suffered significant damage in the blast” and that “a combination of the explosion and resulting water and fire damage took out a number of backup power generators intended to provide power to the batteries,” which “led to service disruptions across parts of Tennessee, Kentucky, and Alabama.” Services for 911 were disrupted, the Nashville International Airport halted flights on Friday, and hundreds of thousands of people in the region were without cell service and internet access over the weekend.
Warner’s residence in Antioch, a neighborhood of Nashville, was identified by the Washington Examiner on Saturday afternoon. A Google Street View image of the home captured in May 2019 shows Warner’s Thor Motor Coach Chateau parked in the yard, looking identical to the RV identified by police as the vehicle responsible for the blast, and federal investigators were seen searching the home on Saturday, first sweeping it for explosives and then removing bags of evidence to investigate.
Property records reviewed by the Washington Examiner that show an Anthony Q. Warner owned the property searched by federal investigators also showed the property was sold for zero dollars one month ago. The Daily Mail said it spoke with Swing, to whom the Nashville property appeared to have been deeded last month, on Saturday.
“I didn’t even buy the house; he just deeded it over to me without my knowledge,” Swing said. “So, this is all very weird to me — that’s about all I can say. … I’ve been told to direct everything else to FBI.”
It was reported by the U.S. Sun that Warner sent Swing a letter in November describing the property he deeded to her. The outlet said police believed Warner may have had a past relationship with Swing’s mother and that Swing sent the letter along to the FBI.
Warner was sued by his mother over another home in Antioch that he inherited after the deaths of his father and brother. The suspected bomber transferred the home to his name, but property records show he deeded it to Swing in early 2019, with Swing deeding it back to Warner’s mother a couple months later.
Warner does not appear to have a recent criminal record, though he was convicted of felony possession of a controlled substance in 1979 and sentenced to two years of probation.
Tennessee business records show Warner specialized in burglar alarms, but his 1993 alarm qualifying agent license expired in 1998, and a business associated with Warner and his address — Custom Alarms and Electronics — was similarly licensed from 1993 to 1998.
FBI special agent in charge Doug Korneski of the Memphis field office released the results of forensic tests of the human remains recovered from the blast site. The FBI said that “DNA examinations of tissue samples by both the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and the FBI Laboratory in Quantico, Virginia, were consistent to those of Anthony Quinn Warner.” The FBI added that “a key break in the investigation occurred when the Tennessee Highway Patrol was able to locate and recover the vehicle identification number from the suspect’s van.” The FBI also indicated it matched Warner’s DNA with that of a family member.
The bureau released a photo of Warner on Sunday night — an older white male with shoulder-length greying dark hair — and said the FBI and the ATF were still seeking further info on him.
CBS News’ Catherine Herridge tweeted Sunday night that an FBI situation report said that investigators at the site of the explosion “located multiple caliber shell casings” and that there were “primers intact indicating they cooked off rather than being fired.” The investigators said the evidence suggested there were “two pistols at the scene” after they found part of a .22 caliber pistol as well as part of a revolver. At Warner’s property, investigators said the location was “clean and organized” and “no documentation was found regarding the 25 December 2020 explosion.”
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