A Christmas morning explosion that rocked downtown Nashville, injuring at least three people and damaging dozens of buildings, is believed to be an intentional act, authorities said.
Officers with the Metro Nashville Police Department were responding to a call of shots fired Friday morning when they came upon an RV, according to police spokesman Don Aaron.
Police saw no immediate evidence of shots fired, Aaron said in a news conference, but something about the RV prompted the officers to request the department’s hazardous devices unit.
The bomb squad was responding to the downtown area when the RV exploded at 6:30 a.m. CT, Aaron said.
“We do believe this to have been an intentional act,” Aaron said. “Significant damage has been done to the infrastructure there on 2nd Avenue North.”
Three people have been transported to hospitals from the scene, but none are in critical condition, according to Nashville Fire spokesman Joseph Pleasant.
The force of the explosion knocked down one officer, Aaron said, and caused hearing loss in another — hopefully temporarily, he said. But no officers were significantly injured.
The incident is under investigation by multiple agencies, both local and federal, including the FBI and the ATF, Aaron said in an earlier news briefing. Police and Tennessee Highway Patrol are conducting a shutdown of the area for the investigation. Access from the interstate through the immediate area will be restricted, he said.
Acting US Attorney General Jeff Rosen was briefed on the incident early this morning, according to his spokesman, “and directed that all DOJ resources be made available to assist in the investigation.”
The White House said that President Donald Trump has been briefed on the incident as well and would receive “regular updates.”
Eyewitness Buck McCoy told CNN the explosion took place right in front of his home, causing his windows to be blown in.
“Everything on the street was fire,” he said. “There were three cars that were fully engulfed.”
Police previously tweeted the explosion took place outside 166 2nd Avenue N. downtown.
Nashville Mayor John Cooper told CNN that dozens of buildings have been damaged, mostly from having glass blown out. Some buildings have been evacuated, the mayor said, but he did not know how many buildings or how many people had been impacted.
“Right now, there’s just a whole lot of glass damage on 2nd Avenue,” he said.
The street is on the edge of the Tennessee city’s hospitality and tourist district in an old, historic part of town.
Footage from CNN affiliate WTVF showed smoke rising from a fire on the street, with debris littering the area.
McCoy told CNN that when he looked outside trees had fallen and broken glass was everywhere. He saw people filing out of their apartments with their animals. Firefighters told him to get as far away from the area as possible, he said.
“There’s just nothing left on 2nd Avenue,” he said.
Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee said in a statement on Twitter that the state would “supply all the resources needed” to determine the cause of the explosion.