Nashville police investigating 'intentional' Christmas vehicle explosion

Local and federal authorities are investigating a vehicle explosion in downtown Nashville that police characterized as an “intentional act.”

The explosion, which shattered the city’s Christmas morning quiet, occurred at 6:30 a.m. Friday in the center of the city’s business district, according to a police Twitter account. Smoke and fire could be seen from the area surrounding the explosion, just across the Cumberland river from the Tennessee Titan’s Nissan stadium and half a mile from the state Capitol.

A vehicle burns near the site of an explosion in the area of Second and Commerce in Nashville, Tenn., on Dec. 25, 2020.Andrew Nelles / Reuters

Joseph Pleasant, a spokesman for the Nashville Fire Department, said at a news conference that three people were taken to local hospitals with non-critical injuries.

Photos posted to social media by the city’s fire department showed broken windows, damaged trees and extensive property damage along a stretch of 2nd Avenue North in Nashville.

Nashville Mayor John Cooper said the explosion had destroyed water mains, exacerbating the damage.

“It looks like a bomb went off on 2nd Avenue,” Cooper said, “an explosion.”

The mayor noted that the damage would have been far worse on a weekday. The typically busy downtown street was fairly sleepy Friday in the early hours of Christmas, Cooper said.

“It would be a different message if it were 5 p.m. on a Friday,” he told reporters at the scene.

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A local newspaper reported that the blast from the explosion could be felt from miles away.

The city’s bomb squad was on the scene, along with agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation tweeted that it has agents and dogs trained to detect accelerants at the scene to assist in the investigation, which is being led by the FBI.