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In 2019, Nashville Bomber's Girlfriend Warned Police About Him

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

We're learning more about the person authorities say carried out the suicide bombing in Nashville on Christmas Day. It turns out the man, Anthony Warner, who was supposedly not on the radar of law enforcement before the explosion, had actually been reported to the police over a year ago. Samantha Max is a criminal justice reporter with member station WPLN in Nashville and is following this.

Good morning.

SAMANTHA MAX, BYLINE: Good morning.

FADEL: So this information is detailed in a police report from 2019. What are we learning?

MAX: So in August 2019, Warner's girlfriend reported that Warner was building bombs inside his RV trailer. According to the report, an attorney who had represented both Warner and his girlfriend at the time told police that Warner frequently was talking about the military and bomb-making. He also said he believed that the suspect knew what he was doing and was capable of making a bomb.

FADEL: Wow. That's pretty specific to what he apparently did. What did police do with this information back then?

MAX: Well, according to the report, police knocked on his door multiple times, and he wouldn't open it. They saw that there was an RV parked in the backyard. And it was fenced off, so they couldn't see inside. They also saw a bunch of security cameras, an alarm system. Officers apparently notified their supervisors and the special investigations division. And the police department said in an email that the report was also shared with the hazardous devices unit.

FADEL: Did police follow up?

MAX: Yeah, the next day, police say that they sent the narrative from the report and Warner's information to the FBI so that they could check it against their databases, see if he had a military background. He supposedly didn't show up in any of those databases. Police say the hazardous devices unit also reached out to the attorney who represented both Warner and his girlfriend. And according to police, someone who remembers that call says that Warner didn't care for the police, that the attorney would not allow his client to permit a visual inspection. However, the attorney has since denied this and says he wanted police to look into the matter. And as far as we know, police didn't apply for a search warrant, which makes us question, does a report like this not constitute probable cause? Would it have been different if Warner hadn't been a middle-aged white man?

FADEL: Yeah, important question. On more than one occasion, authorities publicly told reporters that this person was not on their radar. And now we see this police report. Why didn't they mention this earlier?

MAX: That is definitely the question of the moment. The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation said at a press conference Sunday and later reiterated to us that they had no records of reports on him. And they followed this up last night in a tweet that they were not informed about this report. The police chief had also said he didn't know about any threats to the city in recent days, but maybe just wasn't in the loop on this older report. He just became the chief this fall. So we really don't know who knew what when. And MNPD didn't respond to a request for comment.

FADEL: So in the few seconds that we do have left, how are people in Nashville reacting to this news?

MAX: People are just really kind of outraged and bewildered, especially given the history of surveillance of people of color and activists. There's lots of debate on Twitter, including from local officials. One council member called it mind-boggling that the department withheld this evidence. And they're just calling it a double standard.

FADEL: Samantha Max is a reporter with member station in Nashville.

Samantha, thank you so much.

MAX: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.


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