‘They could have done more,’ Former federal prosecutor says police could have prevented Nashville bombing

Nashville Bombing

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – Metro Nashville Police received a tip in August of 2019 about suicide bomber Anthony Warner making explosives and while the police chief has repeatedly said they did everything they could to investigate, a former federal prosecutor insists that is, by law, not true.

“I think it’s particularly concerning to me. I was in the role of the US Attorney’s office here to supervise these sorts of cases when they came into the FBI counterterrorism bombing cases, things of that sort, ” said Alex Little a Nashville lawyer and former federal prosecutor. “And certainly, any prosecutor and I as well had gotten a tip like this, we would not have been satisfied with the agents telling us they went to his house, he didn’t want to talk and they walked away.”

The facts were revealed in a police report in August 2019 – Anthony Warner’s attorney and his ex-girlfriend told police he was making bombs in his RV.

They went to Warner’s house and knocked repeatedly, but he never came to the door. According to the report, officers observed the RV in the backyard, several security cameras, and an alarm sign.

“It wasn’t just the statement of one individual, the girlfriend, about the bomb. They also had the statement from the lawyer. And then when they went to the home, they had some things such as a security cameras, ‘No Trespassing’ signs that should have put an officer on notice that the individual there was paranoid,” Little explained. “Now, it’s not illegal to be paranoid, but you tie that with the tip, but I think any judge in this town would have granted a search.”

In a call Monday, Metro council members pressed Chief John Drake again on the matter.

He responded, “He has an expectation of privacy. There’s a fenced in yard. There’s a house that we can’t enter. Officers went there several times. They knocked on the door. They went by; they had an officer on standby trying to encounter this person several times. They turned it over to the specialized investigations detective who followed up; they contacted the FBI, who also looked into this matter, and it all came back negative.”

Little adds that he’s seen the same police department do much more in much less serious situations.

“It is routine in this town, small drug investigations, marijuana investigations, even some property crime investigations. The police will do things like looked through your trash. What would they have found if they look through Mr. Warner’s trash? Maybe bomb making supplies. They can stake out ‘we’ll put a video camera outside someone’s home and watch the activities for weeks on end,’ that’s not illegal and can be done; this police department does it. They didn’t do it here,” he said.

News 2 asked Metro Police for a response to Little’s claims, but did not receive one.

Another Nashville Lawyer David Raybin previously told News 2 that Chief Drake was right when he said they didn’t have enough for a search warrant.

“Under the constitution, you cannot get a search warrant unless there is some corroboration of the informant,” Raybin explained. “They didn’t have enough probable cause to go into the man’s home and search his house.”

Little pointed to a case in 2006 to prove that the evidence presented in 2019 would have been enough probable cause to stand in court.

“There’s a case that, it’s pretty clearly analogous to this one where the Tennessee Supreme Court upheld a search warrant, based on a girlfriend saying I saw cocaine in my boyfriend’s closet,” Little said. “Well here, we had a girlfriend saying, ‘I saw my boyfriend making a bomb.’ And so for the police to say that’s not a legal basis, well that’s just not what the law says; it’s certainly not the law in Tennessee.”

Chief Drake ordered an after action report, he said, to see if they could have done anything differently.

MNPD announced Wednesday the report would be done by a panel of five people, three from outside the police department:

Deputy Chief Dwayne Greene and attorney/Professional Standards Division head Kathy Morante will be joined in the review by Nashville attorney and former United States Attorney for the Middle District of Tennessee Ed Yarbrough, Community Oversight Board Executive Director Jill Fitcheard, and Metro Council Member Jennifer Gamble, chair of the Public Safety Committee, according to a release.

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