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Explosion Rocks Downtown Nashville

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

An explosion ripped through downtown Nashville early this morning, injuring at least three people. The force blew out parts of buildings and shattered windows. People just waking up on Christmas Day could hear the blast miles away. Local and federal investigators say it appears to have been an intentional act. We're joined now by Damon Mitchell of member station WPLN in Nashville. Hi, Damon.

DAMON MITCHELL, BYLINE: Hi, Ari.

SHAPIRO: What else can you tell us about the explosion?

MITCHELL: Well, we know police responded to a shots fired call at about 5:30 a.m. this morning. When they got there, police didn't find a gunman when they arrive. But they did see a parked RV that they called suspicious. Police also heard an audio recording from the RV telling people to evacuate. Police called the bomb squad, and the RV exploded around 6:30 a.m. as they waited for the bomb squad team to arrive. And the blast was so strong that it knocked down one officer and actually gave another officer temporary hearing loss.

SHAPIRO: Nashville is known as Music City. Of course, thousands of tourists flock there every year. Can you just describe the area where the explosion happened?

MITCHELL: That's right. And this area isn't the busiest part of downtown, but it is a popular strip that's stepped off from the heavy tourist area where all the country music honky-tonks are. There are bars, businesses, hotels and historic brick-built high-rises where people do live. And one thing I'll say is that today is Christmas, a holiday. It's cold here in Nashville. So there weren't a whole lot of people out.

SHAPIRO: Interesting. And I understand you went to the scene earlier today. What does it look like right now?

MITCHELL: There's shattered glass and debris covering the sidewalks and roads. Businesses did have their windows blown out. You'll also notice burned-up vehicles. There were small fires when the explosion first happened. The crime scene is blocked off. The scene actually consists of several blocks; it's not just, like, a contained area. But there are plenty of onlookers outside kind of standing around in shock and disbelief at the moment.

SHAPIRO: Now, the FBI is investigating the case, working with local police and other agencies. Have we heard anything more about a possible motive or who may have done this?

MITCHELL: That's the big question that we're waiting to get answers on right now. We don't know anything about a possible motive. We do know that they are focusing, of course, on the RV. That's kind of the big subject right now.

A couple of questions are where it's from. Who parked the RV there? How long was it there? Downtown Nashville is an area with a lot of cameras, and police are hopeful that they'll be able to use that to their advantage. They'll be reviewing footage and asking residents who live in the area to call in with any tips and also interviewing witnesses as they come up throughout the day.

And, you know, investigators are currently looking for clues just to kind of get a better picture on what a timeline is and what the motive was and just trying to get a better handle on who the suspect could possibly be.

SHAPIRO: That's Damon Mitchell of member station WPLN in Nashville, where authorities are investigating the explosion that happened early this morning, injuring three people. Damon, thank you for your reporting, especially on this holiday.

MITCHELL: Thank you, Ari. Appreciate it. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.


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