Nashville family credits officers with helping them flee home moments before explosion

Nashville family credits officers with helping them flee home moments before explosion

As officials search the home of a 63-year-old man they believe to be a suspect in the Nashville bombing on Christmas, one local family told “Fox & Friends Weekend” they credit a pair of police officers for helping them escape their apartment moments before the blast.

Police sources told “Fox News Sunday” they believe Anthony Quinn Warner of Antioch, Tenn., owned the RV that exploded, and that he died in the blast.

Six Nashville police officers were hailed as quick-thinking and fast-acting heroes Friday, credited for saving lives and limiting injuries in the downtown area after the shocking Christmas morning explosion.

“These officers didn’t care about themselves,” Metro Nashville police Chief John Drake said, according to Fox 17 Nashville. “They didn’t think about that. They cared about the citizens of Nashville.”

The police officers went door-to-door to evacuate residents and called in a bomb squad after spotting the suspicious recreational vehicle that was parked on a downtown street.

Officers had responded to a call of shots fired in the early hours of Friday morning when they encountered the RV, which Drake said, “had a recording saying a potential bomb would detonate within 15 minutes.”

One officer, according to police, experienced temporary hearing loss from the explosion. No other officers were hurt.

Noelle Rasmussen and her husband Jeffrey appeared on “Fox & Friends Weekend” on Sunday to explain what happened to them on Friday morning.

“We were pretty dead asleep in our beds,” Noelle said, noting that she and her family were up the night before until about 2 a.m. “building toys and stuffing our stockings.”  

She also pointed out that it was the first Christmas the family was celebrating at home.

“We always travel back to see family, but because of COVID we chose to stay home,” she said.

“At about 5:55 in the morning we heard loud banging, just pounding on our door,” she continued, adding that she heard voices identifying themselves as police saying they needed to evacuate.

“So at that point, of course, in my pajamas I opened the door to see what was going on and they were getting all the residents alerted and trying to get everyone cleared from the building,” Noelle said.  

“There was a police man and a police woman and the image is very clear,” she continued. “Their faces were covered because of their masks, but all I could see was their eyes, just urgent and pleading and asking us please to leave.”

VEHICLE PLAYED RECORDING SAYING BOMB WOULD DETONATE: POLICE

“And I said, ‘We have two young kids, we have a 4-year-old and a 1-year-old and it’s 20 degrees and it’s Christmas. Is this really serious? Do we really have to leave?” she went on to explain. “And the police woman just stopped and said, ‘Wait, you have, young kids? Please, yes, please get them, get them and go out the back stairwell, get out of the building.’”

Noelle noted that at that point she did not comprehend the severity of the situation.

“They had not said probably enough to cause alarm that it was a bomb threat,” she said.

“They just said it was a public safety threat. Everyone needs to evacuate the building,” her husband chimed in. “Our head space, we didn’t know if it was like a domestic dispute, someone called the suicide help line. We had no kind of frame of reference of what was going on.”

Noelle pointed out that the couple lives near the honky-tonk bars in downtown Nashville.

“A lot of tourism happens in honky-tonks there so we are used to things and having to be blocked off sometimes, [but] never to this magnitude,” she said.

Noelle went on to say that for that reason, she and her husband “questioned the seriousness” and the “necessity” to evacuate especially because it was their first Christmas at home and they were looking forward to opening presents in the morning.

“But when I saw the officer’s eyes, there was just this heart-to-heart moment with that female officer pleading, ‘Please get your kids and get out’ and I could tell she didn’t have time to stand and mince words so I went in and told my husband,” she explained.

Noelle noted that her husband had the “same reaction, ‘What? Are you crazy? Where are you going to go because it’s COVID?’”

She stressed that because of that female officer the couple and their two children evacuated their apartment within minutes.

“We just got in the car in our pajamas. We threw on coats. I grabbed the diaper bag and that’s it, just whatever shoes were by the door and we drove,” Noelle said.

Jeffrey pointed out that the “RV was parked about two buildings down from us.”

“Our building stretches between the block so the front of the building is on Second Avenue where the blast occurred. Our garage exits First Avenue,” he explained. “The officer said, ‘Go down the back stairwell, exit the back of the building on First Avenue’ and luckily that’s where our garage exits.”

The RV blew up at approximately 6:30 a.m. local time.

The explosion, which occurred outside an AT&T transmission building, caused power outages in areas of Tennessee and eastern Kentucky and disrupted some 911 emergency service, AT&T confirmed Friday. The wireless company started deploying recovery efforts soon after.

Noelle noted that she and her family were able to escape and are all currently safe.

“We don’t know what’s left of the home,” she said. “We’ve seen photos where that whole row is starting to collapse and crumble so we’re prepared for that.”

A motive has remained elusive. The FBI’s Memphis field office, along with Nashville Police and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, are investigating and the city of Nashville activated its Emergency Operations Center. 

Officials have received more than 500 tips regarding the suspect in the Friday explosion downtown, U.S. Attorney Don Cochran said Saturday.

Two law enforcement sources tell Fox News that authorities believe the suspect was killed in the blast and are reviewing DNA samples to confirm. Fox News has also learned that at this point in the investigation, the incident does not appear to be part of a larger web or network and that the suspect likely acted alone.

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The six officers hailed as heroes were identified as: Officer Brenna Hosey (four years of service); Officer James Luellen (three years); Officer Michael Sipos (16 months); Officer Amanda Topping (21 months); Officer James Wells (21 months), and Sgt. Timothy Miller (11 years).

Fox News’ David Spunt, Tyler Olson, Audrey Conklin and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

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