Federal authorities say a 63-year-old Antioch man was responsible for a Christmas morning bombing that left the suspect dead and captured the nation’s attention over the holiday weekend as officials worked to determine who parked an RV downtown to detonate.
What motivated him is still unknown.
Hundreds of federal, state and local law enforcement officers worked to solve the case, and just 60 hours after the explosion, agents Sunday evening named Anthony Quinn Warner as the bomber. He died in the blast.
“He was present when the bomb went off and he perished in the bombing,” said Don Cochran, U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Tennessee.
Through DNA evidence, authorities confirmed Warner’s remains were found at the scene, Cochran said.
“I cannot truly describe all the hard work that has gone into this investigation since Friday’s explosion,” Metro Nashville Police Chief John Drake said during Sunday’s announcement. “Nashville is considered safe.”
Police earlier in the day released chilling details about the moments before the bomb detonated on Second Street about 6:30 a.m. on Friday, adding to an eerie portrait of a man in an RV who blared evacuation warnings before the explosion demolished a city block.
While acquaintances on Sunday described Tony Warner as a self-employed computer guru — and a homebody who tended to his pets and kept to himself — police officers on the scene before the bomb exploded recalled a strange recording emanating from the RV.
In between a digitized female voice giving warnings to evacuate the area, there was music, the officers said.
“Downtown,” a wistful 1964 song by Petula Clark, echoed down Second Avenue just before the blast.
“When you’re alone and life is making you lonely you can always go downtown,” blared Clark’s voice through the speakers. “When you’ve got worries, all the noise and the hurry seems to help, I know.”
Despite massive destruction to 41 buildings, no one else was killed in the explosion. Officers helped evacuate nearby residents from several apartments.
The RV was parked outside of an AT&T facility, though authorities have not said whether they believe the telecommunications company may have been a target.
The blast caused extensive damage to phone and internet coverage throughout the region, causing communication blackouts for 911 centers in surrounding counties, leaving customers throughout the state without service and exposing vulnerabilities in infrastructure.
Gov. Bill Lee on Saturday requested federal aid in effort to help businesses affected by the explosion. An evening curfew remained in place until Sunday, though access into downtown is still restricted.
Authorities are expected to continue their investigation downtown in the coming days. The type of explosives used in the blast remain unknown. Warner wasn’t on the radar of law enforcement before Friday’s explosion, they said, and officials have declined to deem the bombing an act of terrorism.
Doug Korneski, an FBI Special Agent in Charge, said Sunday investigators had “reviewed hours of security video surrounding the recreational vehicle” and determined no other suspects were involved in the bombing.
Tips from the public helped authorities initially identify Warner as a suspect. The Tennessee Highway Patrol discovered a vehicle part from the RV with a Vehicle Identification Number linking it to Warner.
Korenski requested people who knew Warner to contact police and share information while authorities investigate “any and all motives.”
“None of those answers will ever be enough for those who have been affected by this event,” Korenski said.
Who was Tony Warner?
Warner grew up in Antioch and attended Antioch High School, graduating in the mid-1970s before settling down in the same community and working various IT jobs.
But in just the past month, Warner appeared to put his affairs in order. He transferred ownership of the home where he had lived for decades. He informed a regular business client he would no longer be working.
Property records show on the day before Thanksgiving, Warner transferred the title of his longtime Bakertown Road home to a Los Angeles woman. The transaction, a quitclaim deed that did not require the woman’s signature, was made for $0.
Steve Fridrich, who owns Fridrich & Clark Realty, said Warner was hired four or five years ago as a contractor to provide IT services for the business. Warner repaired the company’s computers and set up machines for new employees.
“In December he sent us an email saying he’d no longer be working for us,” Fridrich said.
Warner didn’t give a reason.
The company reached out to the FBI after learning through news coverage that Warner was a person of interest in the case. Agents visited the office Saturday evening, FBI spokesman Jason Pack confirmed.
Warner hadn’t had a run-in with authorities since 1978, when as a young adult he was charged with felony drug possession. He served two years of probation.
Yearbooks from Antioch High School show Warner, a short teenager with glasses, played on the school’s golf team.
Charlie Bozman, a longtime Metro high school coach, was in charge of Antioch’s golf coach in 1974 when Warner played.
“What I can remember about him was essentially three things: quiet, polite, and I don’t like to use the term, but quite frankly nerdish,” recalled Bozman. “He was a very reserved person. He wasn’t outgoing around me.
“I never had any discipline problems with him whatsoever, but that whole group was all great kids.”
Today, Warner does not have a public presence on social media or other websites.
Neighbors say Warner had no obvious political ideology
Neighbors who have lived by Warner for decades say he rarely left home, instead spending much of his time working in his yard. He kept to himself, but would speak to his neighbors, engaging in small talk before going on his way.
Steve Schmoldt and his wife have lived next door to Warner for 25 years. He described Warner as “low-key” and friendly, though “some people would say he’s a little odd.”
“You never saw anyone come and go,” Schmoldt said of Warner’s home. “Never saw him go anywhere. As far as we knew, he was kind of a computer geek that worked at home.”
Warner had placed lights and security cameras outside his house.
He would do a lot of work in his yard, where a tall antenna is prominent on the side of the house, Schmoldt said. Warner built the fence around his yard himself.
The neighbors never talked about politics or religion. Warner never gave any indication of any closely held ideology.
“I can tell you as far as politics, he never had any yard signs or flags in his window or anything like that. If he did have any political beliefs he kept, that was something he kept to himself.
Schmoldt said while the RV had been parked outside the home for years, a couple weeks ago, Warner built a gate in the fence and drove the RV into his yard.
Daniel Douglas, who lived across the street from Warner for 26 years, said Warner told him he moved the RV because people were trying to break into it.
Warner received packages frequently, his neighbor said, and in the past year installed a mailbox. Previously, Warner used a post office box to receive his mail but then began receiving packages at home, Douglas said.
As news unfolded Friday morning, it wasn’t immediately obvious that Warner and his RV were nowhere to be found.
“To be honest, we didn’t really pay any attention it was gone until the FBI and ATF showed up,” Schmoldt said.
He and his wife watched the news Christmas morning as information began to unfold about the Second Avenue bombing. They saw the photos police released of the RV in question. That night, they noticed some cars driving up and down their street.
Then on Saturday they saw a large group of law enforcement outside Warner’s home.
“Holy cow, there’s a SWAT team out there,” Schmoldt recalled his wife saying as she looked out the front door mid-morning.
When Schmoldt learned that whoever was in the RV appeared to have tried to avoid casualties, his mind went to Warner’s devotion to his animals for so many years.
Warner had dogs over the years, first two small Shelties and then a larger dog he adopted, though the pets have since died. Schmoldt said Warner “took really good care of his dogs,” even building a wheelchair ramp for them when they got older so the animals didn’t have to use stairs to get inside the house.
“If it was him, he didn’t want anybody hurt,” Schmoldt said. “But if that’s the case, what other message is there? If indeed it was him, I just, I don’t know. They have to figure out some kind of motive.”
Adam Tamburin, Natalie Alund, Mike Organ, Cassandra Stephenson, Brinley Hineman and Mariah Timms contributed.
Reach Natalie Allison at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at @natalie_allison.