One of the officers who was at the scene during the explosion in Nashville on Christmas Day attributed God to one last moment to walk away from the recreational vehicle just seconds before it exploded.
The blast, which police called a “deliberate act”, injured at least three people and destroyed 41 buildings and businesses in the area. Local and federal law enforcement officials have no motive for the blast, which occurred early Friday morning after the vehicle issued a warning that people must evacuate with a female voice recording.
The officer also played the song “Downtown” by Petula Clark at some point before the explosion.
Nashville police officers James Wells and Amanda Topping were nearing the end of their shifts on Christmas morning when fellow officer Tyler Luellen asked to return after a possible shooting, they explained during a news conference Sunday morning. Upon their arrival, they heard the sound of an RV telling them to evacuate, and there was a bomb.
Topping stayed at her car and watched the road as everyone began evacuating the building closest to the RV, she said. As soon as a small group of officers comes out of the building, she starts towards them, until she notices Wells next to the RV and changes course.
Wells also decided to change course for the last moment and turn to her – seconds before the bomb exploded.
“That may not be politically correct, but it’s my truth,” Wells said Sunday. “I literally heard God tell me to turn around and go watch Topping, which was alone on Broadway.”
Suddenly, Wells said he lost his footing when the bomb went off. He said he also temporarily lost the audience due to the explosion. But he soon got his feet up again and ran to Topping, who said she had only started walking towards him when she saw ‘the biggest flames’ she had seen in her life.
“I do not know how I kept my footing, but … I could not see him for a moment, I just lost it and just sprinted up to him in a sprint,” Topping said. “And like he said, ‘I’ve never grabbed anyone so hard in my life.’
Wells, who describes himself as a ‘spiritual’ person, believed God that he had helped him survive that day.
“I will not shy away from it, because that’s what saved my life,” Wells said. ‘This is what I went to see with my children and my wife at Christmas. And ‘good to see you’ now has a very different meaning to me. ‘
Both Topping and Wells described the whole incident oddly from the beginning, a moment that feels more like a scene you would see in a movie than real life.
Authorities do not believe there is currently a threat to Nashville and are investigating hundreds of tips leading to the explosion. Federal agents searched the home of Anthony Quinn Warner, 63, on Saturday after Google street photos of the address parked an RV in the backyard, matching the description used by police following the bombing.
Tissue was found after the blast, and authorities are investigating to confirm if it could be human remains, said John Drake, Metropolitan Nashville police chief.
Luellen, the first officer to arrive at the scene and need help, did not think anything of the RV when he first arrived there. After hearing the bomb, he went to see if there were any labels, but saw nothing to identify the recreational vehicle.
“I do not know for what reason the gentleman or woman, whoever it was, did it,” Luellen said. “I’m just grateful we had time to help people clean up.”