The man who detonated an RV bomb in downtown Nashville early Christmas morning was a loner with no significant criminal record and as yet no signs of a political ideology.
Anthony Quinn Warner, a 63-year-old from Antioch, Tennessee, died when his recreational vehicle exploded on 2nd Avenue North, damaging more than 40 buildings and injuring at least eight people.
Yet no one else died in the blast, partly because Warner’s RV had broadcast ominous warnings in a computerized female voice that it would soon explode, spurring police and bystanders to leave the area.
The unusual warnings and sparse evidence of Warner’s politics have prevented authorities from calling the bombing an act of terrorism, which by definition is an act in furtherance of a political goal.
Here’s what we know about the man behind the bombing.
Investigators have linked him to the RV
Remnants of the RV were recovered from the scene, and investigators with the Tennessee Highway Patrol determined its vehicle identification number, or VIN, authorities said Sunday. The VIN number matched that of a vehicle registered to Warner, FBI special agent in charge Doug Korneski said.
In addition, a tip about the RV led law enforcement officials to a Bakertown Road home, a law enforcement official told CNN. Federal investigators were at the home Saturday conducting “court-authorized activity,” FBI spokesman Jason Pack told CNN.
An RV seen on Google Street View at Warner’s house appears to match the one law enforcement has asked the public for information on.
“He’s had that for a long time,” Steve Schmoldt, a neighbor, said. “Sometimes he’s had it in his driveway. Sometimes he had it in his backyard.”
Investigators positively identified Warner as the bomber by comparing DNA from the scene to that on gloves and a hat from a vehicle owned by Warner, Tennessee Bureau of Investigation Director David Rausch said.
Police were told he was building bombs
A woman who said she was Warner’s girlfriend told police last year he was making bombs in his recreational vehicle, according to a statement and documents the Metropolitan Nashville Police Department provided to CNN.
On August 21, 2019, police received a call from an attorney representing Pamela Perry, the woman who said she was Warner’s girlfriend, the MNPD said Tuesday. Her attorney, Raymond Throckmorton, said she had made “suicidal threats to him via telephone.”
When police arrived at Perry’s home, they found two unloaded pistols near Perry, who said they belonged to Warner. She told officers she did not want them in the home any longer and that Warner was “building bombs in the RV trailer at his residence,” according to a “matter of record” report from the MNPD.
The police also spoke to Throckmorton, who once represented Warner and was also at Perry’s home. He told authorities Warner “frequently talks about the military and bomb-making. (Throckmorton) stated that he believes that the suspect knows what he is doing and is capable of making a bomb,” the report said.
CNN has reached out to Throckmorton for comment about his account — first reported by the Tennessean — but has not yet heard back.
An officer observed Warner’s home for several days, but found no evidence of bomb making, according to Metro Nashville Police Chief John Drake. It would have taken a sign of a crime being committed, or that a bomb was being made, to obtain a legal search warrant or subpoena, Drake said.
“I believe officers did everything they could legally. Maybe we could have followed up more — hindsight is 20/20,” Drake said. “The officers did not have probable cause to get a search warrant. There was a call for service on a lady who had two guns, who needed care, and so we, you know, she needed some assistance. There was nothing else there to say OK, yeah — you have to have probable cause.”
An officer asked Throckmorton over the phone whether he could look inside the RV behind the home. The attorney told the officer Warren “did not care for police” and “I’m not going to be able to let y’all do that,” according to Drake.
Throckmorton denied those claims in an interview with CNN affiliate WTVF.
“He was not a current client of mine at that point in time,” Throckmorton said. “I certainly would have never have told him not to check it out when I’m the one who said, go the hell over there, find out what’s going on.”
MNPD asked the FBI to check its databases for records of Warner and none were found, the FBI confirmed in a statement to CNN. On Monday, Rausch said Warner had not previously been on law enforcement’s radar.
He was arrested on a charge of marijuana possession for resale in 1978, when he was 21, but otherwise had no criminal history.
He was a loner computer expert
Neighbors and a person he worked with had little substantive to say about Warner, describing him generally as a loner.
Schmoldt has lived next door to Warner since 2001, and his wife has lived in the house since 1995.
“He’s lived there a long time and he sort of kept to himself,” Schmoldt told CNN of Warner. “All we knew him by was Tony. He was kind of a hermit.”
Rick Laude, another neighbor, was coming home last Monday and saw Warner at his mailbox, he told CNN.
“I said, ‘Hey Anthony — is Santa going to bring you something good for Christmas”‘” Laude said.
“He said, ‘Yes, I’m going to be more famous,'” Laude recalled. “‘I’m going to be so famous Nashville will never forget me.'”
Laude said that he thought Warner was referring to something good happening, perhaps related to his work in IT.
“Let me be very clear, he and I were not friends,” Laude said. “You will not find anyone in my neighborhood who will claim to be a friend of his. He was just a legitimate recluse.”
Steve Fridrich, of Fridrich & Clark LLC, said he hired Warner as a computer consultant for his real estate business as an independent contractor for several years. In a statement, he described Warner as a “nice person who never exhibited any behavior which was less than professional.”
Public records show Warner owned a home on Bakertown Road in Antioch until November 25, when he signed a quit claim deed giving ownership of the home to a woman. Warner deeded another property on Bakertown Road to the same woman in 2019, according to public records.
His motivation is unclear
Before the explosion on Christmas morning, the RV broadcast a computerized female voice repeatedly warning that a bomb would explode in minutes. The RV also broadcast Petula Clark’s 1964 hit “Downtown,” a song about how the bustle of downtown can cure a lonely person’s troubles.
The repeated warnings and the early morning timing of the blast — when few were around — suggest that Warner did not intend to cause mass casualties.
Mayor John Cooper said the explosion was “clearly done when no one was going to be around.”
So, what was his goal in the suicide bombing? Did he even have one?
Investigators from the TBI are working with the FBI, ATF and Nashville police to interview other family members, as well as Warner’s neighbors. They are talking to anyone who knew Warner to try to get his history as best they can, authorities said.
When it exploded, the RV was parked outside an AT&T transmission building, which sustained significant damage in the blast, knocking out wireless service for much of the region, authorities said.
Warner’s father previously worked at AT&T, according to Rausch, and he said investigators are looking into whether that may be relevant to the motive.
“These answers won’t come quickly,” Korneski said. “Though we may be able to answer some of those questions … none of those answers will ever be enough for those affected by this event.”