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Panel Finds Police Could Have Done More to Prevent Nashville Bombing

An investigation into the Metropolitan Nashville Police Department’s handling of a 2019 tip about the 2020 Nashville bombing determined that while protocols were followed, police could have done more.

On 25 December 2020, Anthony Quinn Warner parked an RV on Second Avenue, part of a historic and tourist district of downtown Nashville, Tennessee. After broadcasting a warning for anyone nearby to evacuate the area, Warner detonated the explosives in the RV, killing himself and injuring eight people. The explosion also heavily damaged more than 40 buildings in the area, including an AT&T network facility, and disrupted phone and data service for days throughout hundreds of miles.

Warner’s friend Pamela Perry warned police about him, according to the Associated Press. Authorities were called about a woman, Perry, who was threatening to commit suicide. During her interaction with the responding officers, she told them she believed Warner was building a bomb in his recreational vehicle at this home.

Although Nashville Police Chief John Drake initially defended officers’ actions in attempting to investigate the tip and prevent the bombing, he requested a report on the matter.

The eight-page report, released on 2 June, was compiled by a five-member review board. The panel consisted of a former U.S. attorney, a member of Nashville’s city council, a Community Oversight Board member, Deputy Police Chief Dwayne Greene, and the head of police internal affairs. The former federal prosecutor, Ed Yarbrough, now an attorney in Nashville, chaired the panel, according to the Tennessean.

Within the report, the board said that while department protocols were followed, there were at least seven problems with the investigation of the 2019 tip and the police department’s rules on handling tips concerning explosives.

Although police visited Warner’s home after Perry told them he was making a bomb, no one answered and the officers turned the case over to the bomb squad since they did not think they had sufficient probable cause for a search warrant. The case eventually stalled, left open but dormant, since follow-up attempts to talk with both Warner and Perry yielded no results.

The report pointed out that the lead officer, Kevin Pollard, not only failed to document his attempts to contact Warner and Perry, but he also did not reach out to Warner’s family, neighbors, or employer. Pollard also could have reached out to available resources for legal advice on securing a search warrant.

The panel made several recommendations, including that going forward members of the bomb squad should be partnered with precinct detectives to bolster information sharing, a monthly review of bomb unit cases by the police department plus more documentation by investigators, random quarterly audits of case files, and a monthly conference with bomb squad members, state authorities, and federal authorities where ongoing investigations are discussed.

Drake said all the report’s recommendations would be accepted and some were already being implemented.

Warner’s explosion was not an act of terrorism, but rather an attempt to end only his own life, “driven in part by a totality of life stressors—including paranoia, long-held individualized beliefs adopted from several eccentric conspiracy theories, and the loss of stabilizing anchors and deteriorating interpersonal relationships,” according to an FBI report on the bombing released in March 2021.

Along with acting on his own, the FBI said in a public statement that Warner was specific in his selection of both the time and place of the explosion, “so that it would be impactful, while still minimizing the likelihood of causing undue injury.”