One of the officers on scene during the Nashville explosion on Christmas Day credited God with a last minute decision to walk away from the recreational vehicle just seconds before it exploded.
The blast, which police called an “intentional act,” left at least three people injured and destroyed 41 buildings and businesses nearby. Local and federal law enforcement have no motive for the explosion, which occurred early Friday morning after the vehicle announced a warning for people to evacuate with a recording of a woman’s voice.
The RV also played the song “Downtown” by Petula Clark at one point before the blast, one officer said.
Metro Nashville Police Officers James Wells and Amanda Topping were near the end of their shifts on Christmas morning when fellow officer Tyler Luellen called for back up to a possible shooting, they explained at a press conference on Sunday morning. Upon arriving, they heard audio from an RV that told them to evacuate and a bomb was inside.
Topping stayed with her car and watched the road while everyone else began to evacuate the building closest to the RV, something that made her a bit antsy, she said. Once a small group of officers came out of the building she started toward them, until she noticed Wells by the RV and changed course.
Wells also decided to change course last minute and turn toward her — just seconds before the bomb detonated.
“This might not be politically correct, but this is my truth,” Wells said Sunday. “I literally heard God tell me to turn around and go check on Topping, who was by herself down on Broadway.”
Suddenly, Wells said he lost his footing as the bomb went off. He said he also temporarily lost hearing from the blast. But he soon regained his feet and ran toward Topping, who said she was only just beginning to walk to him when she saw “the biggest flames” she’d seen in her life.
“I don’t know how I kept my footing but…I couldn’t see him for a second, I just lost it and I just took off in a sprint towards him,” Topping said. “And, like he said, I’ve never grabbed somebody so hard in my life.”
Wells, who describes himself as a “spiritual” person, credited God with helping him survive that day.
“I’m not gonna shy away from that because that’s what saved my life,” Wells said. “That’s what got me to see my kids and my wife on Christmas. And ‘good to see you’ has a completely different meaning for me now.”
Both Topping and Wells described the entire incident as strange from the beginning, a moment that felt more like a scene you would see in a movie than real life.
Authorities don’t believe there’s a current threat to Nashville and are investigating hundreds of tips and leads into the blast. Federal agents searched the home of Anthony Quinn Warner, 63, on Saturday after Google street view images of the address showed an RV parked in the backyard matching the description the one police said was used in the bombing.
Tissue was found after the explosion, and authorities are examining it to confirm whether it could be human remains, according to Metropolitan Nashville Police Chief John Drake.
Luellen, the first officer to arrive on scene and call for backup, didn’t think anything of the RV when he first arrived nor did he notice anyone around it. After hearing the bomb notice, he went to check for tags but saw nothing to identify the recreational vehicle, which had all its shades down to obstruct any view from inside.
“I don’t know for what reason the gentleman or female, whoever it was that actually did this, gave the notice,” Luellen said. “I’m just grateful that we actually had time to try and help people clear out.”