NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — More than a year before Anthony Warner detonated a bomb in downtown Nashville on Christmas, officers visited his home after his girlfriend told police he was building bombs in an RV trailer at his residence, according to documents obtained by The Associated Press. But they did not make contact with him, or see inside his RV.
Officers were called to Pamela Perry’s home in Nashville on Aug. 21, 2019, following a report from her attorney that she was making suicidal threats while sitting on her front porch with firearms, the Metropolitan Nashville Police Department said in an emailed statement Tuesday.
According to the incident report, when officers arrived, police said she had two unloaded pistols beside her on the porch. She told them the guns belonged to “Tony Warner” and she did not want them in the house any longer. Perry, then 62, was then transported for a psychological evaluation after speaking to mental health professionals on the phone.
The report says police went to Warner’s home, about 1.5 miles (2.4 kilometers) from Perry’s home, but he didn’t answer the door when they knocked repeatedly. They saw the RV in the backyard, the report said, but the yard was fenced off and officers couldn’t see inside the vehicle.
The report said there also were “several security cameras and wires attached to an alarm sign on the front door” of the home. Officers then notified supervisors and detectives.
“They saw no evidence of a crime and had no authority to enter his home or fenced property,” the police statement said.
Law enforcement officials did not publicly release the report, but instead it was revealed only after news outlets submitted public records requests. Later, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation announced that Warner’s only arrest was for a 1978 marijuana-related charge.
David Rausch, the TBI's director, had told reporters earlier this week that Warner was not on their radar. Rausch was flanked by federal and state officials who did not object or amend the statement.
Nashville Police Chief John Drake later told reporters Wednesday that he didn’t learn of the report until late Sunday evening, but said he believed his officers that there was no probable cause for a search warrant.
“I believe the officers did everything they could legally. Maybe they could have followed up more, hindsight is 20/20,” Drake said, adding that Warner had a “squeaky clean” background outside of the decades-old marijuana charge.
News that Warner's former girlfriend had tried to alert authorities he may have been building bombs came as federal agents were continuing to examine Warner’s digital footprint and writings, a law enforcement official said.
Investigators are also scrutinizing whether Warner believed in multiple conspiracy theories after being told by some of the people they’ve interviewed that Warner believed that shape-shifting reptiles take on a human form to take over society and that he discussed taking trips to hunt aliens, the official said. Investigators have also been asking witnesses whether Warner may have believed in any conspiracies about 5G technology.
The official could not discuss the investigation publicly and spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity.
The report also said attorney Raymond Throckmorton told officers that day that he represented Warner and told officers Warner “frequently talks about the military and bomb making,” the police report said. Warner “knows what he is doing and is capable of making a bomb,” Throckmorton told responding officers.
On Tuesday, Throckmorton told The Tennessean that Perry had fears about her safety, and thought Warner might harm her.
After officers visited Warner's home last August, the police department’s hazardous devices unit was given a copy of the police report. During the week of August 26, 2019, they contacted Throckmorton. Police said officers recalled Throckmorton saying Warner “did not care for the police,” and that he wouldn’t allow Warner “to permit a visual inspection of the RV.”
Throckmorton disputes that he told police they couldn’t search the vehicle and says that he only represented Warner in a civil case several years prior.
“Somebody, somewhere dropped the ball,” he said.
Drake said he believed the officers' account.
A day after officers visited Warner's home, the police report and identifying information about Warner were sent to the FBI to check their databases and determine whether Warner had prior military connections, police said.
Later that day, the police department said “the FBI reported back that they checked their holdings and found no records on Warner at all.” FBI spokesperson Darrell DeBusk told The Tennessean the agency had conducted a standard agency-to-agency record check.
Six days later, “the FBI reported that Department of Defense checks on Warner were all negative," the police department said.
No other information about Warner came to the department or the FBI’s attention after August 2019, police said. “At no time was there any evidence of a crime detected and no additional action was taken,” the statement said. “The ATF also had no information on him."
The bombing Christmas morning occurred well before downtown streets were bustling with activity. Police were responding to a report of shots fired Friday when they encountered the RV blaring a recorded warning that a bomb would detonate in 15 minutes. Then, inexplicably, the audio switched to a recording of Petula Clark’s 1964 hit “Downtown” shortly before the blast. Dozens of buildings were damaged and several people were injured.
Investigators have not uncovered a motive nor was it revealed why Warner had targeted the particular location, which damaged an AT&T building and wreaked havoc on cellphone, police and hospital communications in several Southern states.
Hadero reported from Lancaster, Pennsylvania and Balsamo reported from Washington. Associated Press reporter Eric Tucker contributed to this report also from Washington.