Search
  • alhglobalanalyst

Behavioral Threat Assessment-POI: Anthony Quinn Warner

Vendela Frank, B/L Team


Summary


While law enforcement is working around the clock to piece together information about the explosion that rocked Nashville on Christmas Day, there are still some unconfirmed details, including whether or not the incident can be classified as an act of domestic terrorism, the ambiguity of the target, and the attack motive. After conducting an analysis on the perpetrator, Anthony Quinn Warner, we have reached the following assessments:

  • Based solely on current information that is publically available, it is not yet appropriate to classify Warner as a terrorist, nor the attack as an act of terrorism.

  • It is very likely that Warner acted alone with the target of harming communication infrastructure.

  • It is somewhat likely that Warner was motivated by 5G paranoia, with the goal of protecting people from disease and death.

  • It is unlikely that a future threat will be derived from this particular event. However, to prevent future copycat threats, it is important to continue monitoring the situation for updates and performing research to find and dissect the motive itself.

Alternative assessments may indicate that this was, in fact, an act of terrorism (i.e. ideologically or politically motivated), but this will only be confirmed once the motive has been identified. The suggested attack target and attack goal may also turn out to be incorrect, but again, more information is needed. Although Warner acted alone and we do not foresee an attack being derived from this particular event, lone-actors, in general, are certainly still a security concern due to the copycat effect, and we must remain vigilant in identifying pre-attack warning signs.


Event Overview


In downtown Nashville at 0122 local time on Friday, December 25th, a white RV arrived at 2nd Avenue North. Several hours later, a resident in the area said she woke up to what sounded like "an automatic weapon,” and called 911 after hearing the sound a second time. Police said they were called to the location after a report of shots fired around 0530. When officers responded to the scene, they found a white RV parked in front of an AT&T transmission building that was repeatedly broadcasting a warning that an explosion would occur in 15 minutes. Additionally, the resident recalled a computerized voice warning residents to "evacuate now." Nashville police officers involved in the response told reporters Sunday morning that the recording changed as they were working to evacuate residents from nearby buildings, eventually giving a three-minute warning, as well as playing the 1964 song "Downtown" by Petula Clark.[1] The blast, which has been determined as a suicide bombing, occurred at 0630, injuring three people and killing the perpetrator (human remains were found on the scene that is believed to be those of the bomber).


POI Overview - Items of Interest


Metro Nashville Police Chief John Drake named Anthony Quinn Warner, 63, of Antioch, Tennessee, as a key person in the investigations on December 26th.[2] The reason he was of interest is that the RV involved in the explosion was seen parked outside of his home, and has been parked around the house since April 2013. On the 27th, forensic analysts matched DNA taken from the explosion to him, according to Tennessee Bureau of Investigation director David Rausch, confirming him as the perpetrator.[3] Below are some areas of interest that will help to identify observable indicators and characteristics to determine if there was any chance for this attack to have been prevented.


  1. Public records show that Warner owned the Antioch home (which had the RV parked out front) until November 25, 2020, when he signed a quitclaim deed giving ownership of the home to a woman named Michelle Swing who claimed she was not aware of the deed switch.[4]

  2. Warner had extensive experience with electronics and alarm systems and recently worked as an independent computer technician with the real estate firm Fridrich & Clark.[5]

  3. Neighbors described him as a computer-geek who kept to himself and was somewhat odd, but friendly overall. He never had any political signs/affiliations, was not a registered voter, and kept lights, security cameras, and a tall antenna outside his house. Neighbors never saw anyone come and go from the house, and it had a fence around the property that Warner had built himself. Only a couple of weeks ago, Warner built a gate in the fence and drove the RV into his yard, keeping it out of sight for the first time in years.[6]

  4. He was issued an Explosive User Permits Handler license in November 2013 that expired in November of 2016.[7]

  5. He was unmarried. His brother, Steve Warner, died of cancer in 2018. His father, Charles Warner, who passed in 2011 from dementia, worked for BellSouth, which was a telecommunications company that merged into AT&T in 2006.[8] As we know, the RV which exploded was parked outside of AT&T.

  6. On January 29, 1978, he was arrested for felony possession of a controlled substance in Nashville, Davidson County, Tennessee. He was found guilty on November 8, 1979.[9]

  7. Mr. Fridrich, whom Warner did independent work for, said Mr. Warner sent the firm an email on December 5 saying that he was retiring.[10]

  8. Warner may have already been dying, or believed himself to be dying, prior to the attack - reportedly, he had informed an ex-girlfriend that he was suffering from cancer, and then sold her his car.[11]

  9. The FBI is currently investigating his digital footprint, but for now, Warner does not seem to have any known social media presence.[12]

  10. Days before the attack, Warner engaged in an exchange with a neighbor that could be considered leakage: the neighbor had seen Warner standing at his mailbox and pulled over his car to talk, asking him if 'Santa [is] going to bring you anything good for Christmas?' to which Warner responded: 'Oh, yeah, Nashville and the world is never going to forget me.’[13]

  11. Police had been informed of Warner’s bomb-making capabilities in 2019. According to an incident report, South Precinct officers were called by Raymond Throckmorton, Warner’s former attorney, to the home of Warner’s girlfriend, Pamela Perry, on August 21, 2019, in response to her threatening suicide. When officers arrived at the scene, Perry explained that the two pistols sitting next to her belonged to Anthony Warner and made a statement that Warner was building bombs in the RV on his property; this was backed up by Throckmorton, who told officers that Warner “frequently talked about the military and bomb-making” and that Warner was capable of making a bomb.[14] Police, along with the Hazardous Device Unit, went to Warner’s home but claimed they were not allowed to search the RV as per Throckmorton’s instruction -- Throckmorton disputed this, saying that "I certainly would never have told them not to check it out when I'm the one who said go the hell over there and find out what's going on.”[15] There is no indication that law enforcement asked for a search warrant nor followed up with Perry. Metro police said there was no evidence of a crime detected and no additional action was taken.



Pictured: Anthony Warner (left) and explosion aftermath[16]


Observable Indicators and Characteristics


To indicate whether this event was a lone-actor terrorist attack, we have assessed Warner using the Terrorist Radicalization Assessment Protocol (TRAP-18), a structured professional judgment instrument for those engaged in risk assessment of persons of concern for acts of terrorist violence. The TRAP-18 consists of 8 proximal warning behaviors and 10 distal characteristics that have been displayed throughout past terrorist attacks (for more information about the scientific method, validity, current usage of the TRAP-18, and definitions of the behaviors and characteristics, see the provided source).[17]

Only evidence that has been proven and confirmed is checked on this list. Unchecked boxes may or may not have been exhibited by the POI but are, for now, unknown. While many theories exist, a motive has not yet been finalized by the FBI.



Classification as Terrorism


According to the creators of the TRAP-18, “as a form of content validity it can be reported that the majority of lone actors were positive on 13 of 18 TRAP-18 variables (72%)” and that these individuals “showed a frequency of >70% on the distal factors of personal grievance/moral outrage, framed by an ideology, thwarting of occupational goals, and changes in thinking and emotion;” additionally, “77% or more evidenced four proximal warning behaviors: pathway, fixation, identification, and leakage.”[18] Essentially, lone-actor terrorists, in particular, have shown a pattern of common pre-attack behaviors that discern them from general criminals; while this is not a fool-proof method, comparing Warner’s traits to those of known lone-actor terrorists may help to determine whether or not the act was one of terrorism or simply a personal grievance. From what we know, Warner displayed seven total indicators, three of which align themselves with other lone-actor terrorists. Clearly, there are similarities between Warner and the behaviors displayed by terrorists, and as more information reaches the public, we may be able to characterize him as such. However, the 5G paranoia ideology is only the unofficial motive as of now. Until we have more credible information about Warner which may connect him with an ideology, we assess that he cannot yet be classified as a terrorist.


Target and Goal


While a definite target has not yet been confirmed by the FBI, "it does appear that the intent was more destruction than death," said David Rausch, director of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation.[19] The assumption that mass casualty was not the goal is supported by the automated countdown prior to the explosion as well as the time the attack took place (0630 on Christmas Day is not a time when several people would be out on the streets of Nashville, let alone at their jobs in the AT&T building if this was the intended target). Notably, the explosion was a large one that harmed several buildings rather than just a single location, making it difficult to say for certain what the target really was. With Warner himself having worked in the IT industry and his father having worked for AT&T before his passing, one can speculate that there may be a personal grievance which led him to target that location, leaning toward the implication that he had operated alone as opposed to alongside a group and/or other co-conspirators (this is further evidenced by Warner’s apparently withdrawn nature). 911 operations and residential services were shut down due to the attack, as well as several law enforcement phone lines, as most of the Metro Nashville Police Department’s administrators and officers use AT&T. The personal connection along with the potential motive of 5G paranoia (as discussed below) leads us to assess with a mid-to-high level degree of confidence that the target was communication infrastructure and that Warner acted alone.


Motive


Although the motive is not yet known, what seems to be the most agreed-upon consensus is that Warner was paranoid about 5G technology; the belief is that the radiation from these electromagnetic fields is harmful to people in that they cause sickness and death. As 5G had its debut around the same time as the coronavirus, and both originate in China, people suspected that 5G was a technological Chinese weapon. This resulted in attacks towards communications infrastructure around the globe. For instance, in Europe, fears about 5G animated a rash of vandalism and arson of mobile infrastructure, including more than 30 incidents in the U.K. in the first ten days of April.[20] It is speculated that Warner may have harbored these same feelings; as we know, Warner’s father died from dementia working with AT&T, and Warner himself, also in the tech industry, supposedly claimed to have cancer. It is possible that Warner blamed these illnesses on 5G and saw it as his duty to protect others from this same fate before cancer claimed his life. According to ‘a source close to the investigation,’ Warner was “heavily into conspiracy theories,” “believed 5G was the root of all deaths in the region,” and that “he’d be hailed a hero” for the attack.[21] Alongside all this, he is also said to have believed in the lizard or reptilian conspiracy theory involving the idea that shape-shifting reptilian creatures appear in human form and are bent on world domination -- according to authorities, he spent time hunting for alien life forms in a nearby state park.[22] It is unclear if this particular belief is connected with the bombing or with the 5G paranoia. While the 5G theory seems plausible, it is important to note that none of this has been confirmed. Therefore, we can only assess with a mid-level degree of confidence that the motive for the attack was 5G paranoia.


Conspiracy Theories and Copycats


Since there are still many unanswered pieces of this puzzle, several conspiracy theories have floated around the internet, several of which have already been fact-checked as false. For instance, the claim that the attack was voter-fraud related in that AT&T may have audited the Dominion voting machines was disputed by an AT&T spokesman who confirmed that there was no such contract in existence.[23] Additionally, there are individuals on social media platforms such as Parler who question whether or not the government may have conducted the attack themselves and used Warner as a scapegoat.[24] Along those lines, certain far-right QAnon groups theorized that Warner was an actor, partially because a different Anthony Quinn was a Hollywood star before dying in 2001; others speculated that Anthony Quinn Warner was just a code for “Anon Q Warn.”[25] While these ideas may seem outlandish, if given enough momentum, they could have real-world consequences, similar to PizzaGate. Already, pro-terrorism groups on Telegram known to call for civil war and violent attacks have touted the possibility that Warner might have been a QAnon-influenced terrorist, embracing and supporting his actions.[26] While Warner himself naturally does not pose a threat any longer, it has been proven in psychological studies that media-fueled contagion effects produce “copycat” actors who are inspired by the notoriety that attackers receive following their deeds.[27] James Turgeon, 33, sparked fears of such an attack as he drove through Rutherford County, TN on Sunday playing an evacuation warning recording similar to that of Warner’s; while he was not found to have any explosives in his vehicle, it reminds us of the possibility that someone who does have the necessary means can be influenced to commit an attack as well.[28]


Future Implications


As Warner was believed to have worked alone and was confirmed to have been killed in the blast, we do not see a future threat is derived directly from this incident. However, this does not negate the fact that lone-actors planning future attacks are still out there, and that online communities developing conspiracy theories and defending his actions may inspire copycat attacks. Also, whether or not Warner believed this himself, it is evident that 5G paranoia has already led to several instances of violence globally. Thus, government agencies, private sector organizations, and local communities must continue to seek out, identify, and deter potential threats. Lone-actors may seem unpredictable, but as shown with the pre-attack indicators, there are warning signs to pick up on if one knows what to look for.


Even more importantly, we have to act on the information we receive. It is alarming that, even with a prior tip about Warner’s bomb-making interests and skills, law enforcement essentially dropped the investigation as soon as they ran into a denial of access. Reports to law enforcement and security personnel of red-flag behaviors such as those exhibited by Warner can no longer be taken lightly as they are usually threat indicators for a person who is going to carry out some kind of attack or incident. We can no longer take a report just to leave it or pass the case over to another agency or entity to investigate, only for it to get dropped. Follow-ups are inconvenient. Search warrants are inconvenient. But when forced to choose between completing seemingly redundant procedures or risk indescribable tragedy, the decision should be clear as day.


Fortunately, solutions do exist. The implementation of Threat Assessment programs and teams in various types of organizations can help to mitigate and/or de-escalate threats before the tragedy happens. The goal is to educate and connect law enforcement, prosecutors, mental health professionals, and education staff on noticing warning signs and administering the appropriate response (e.g. psychiatric help, probationary methods, weapons removal, etc.). Perhaps if Warner would have been evaluated psychologically, closely monitored by local law enforcement, and had his explosives revoked, this attack may have been prevented. Throckmorton himself stated that "If somebody had checked Tony out and gotten him the help that he needed this would never have happened.”[29]


CTG Efforts


CTG works to detect, deter, and defeat terrorism by monitoring worldwide threats and conducting analyses based on available intelligence. The WATCH Office and Threat Hunter programs not only report on but actively seek out potential threats from various online sources -- as seen above, there are generally several warning signs from perpetrators before the attack is carried out, and our organization helps clients to recognize these red flags and provide response recommendations. Specifically, the Behavior & Leadership (B/L) Team has a Behavior Indicator Database which may be utilized to identify pre-attack behaviors; this will, in turn, help to formulate threat assessments and incident response plans the customer may be constructing. B/L also works closely with the Extremism team to analyze individuals that are on their radar, making the threat assessment process a collaborative effort. Now more than ever, it is imperative to have standardized methods that foresee these threats so that predictions may be made faultlessly and efficiently.



[1] “Police identify 'person of interest' in Nashville explosion,” CNN, December 27, 2020, https://www.cnn.com/2020/12/27/us/nashville-explosion-what-we-know/index.html

[2] Ibid.

[3] “Anthony Quinn Warner is dead; Nashville bombing suspect’s motive still a mystery,” Conan Daily, December 27 2020, https://conandaily.com/2020/12/27/anthony-quinn-warner-is-dead-nashville-bombing-suspects-motive-still-a-mystery/

[4] “Records: Man scrutinized in Nashville bombing deeded properties to woman with East TN ties,” WBIR, December 27 2020, https://www.wbir.com/article/news/crime/records-man-scrutinized-in-nashville-bombing-deeded-properties-to-woman-with-east-tn-ties/51-a9c4a541-ae97-4585-9e4a-cd315b909e9e

[5] “Anthony Quinn Warner, person of interest in Nashville bombing, a 'computer geek,' neighbor says,” Tennessean, December 27 2020, https://www.tennessean.com/story/news/crime/2020/12/27/anthony-quinn-warner-confirmed-person-interest-nashville-explosion/4052711001/

[6] Ibid.

[7] “Police identify 'person of interest' in Nashville explosion,” CNN, December 27, 2020, https://www.cnn.com/2020/12/27/us/nashville-explosion-what-we-know/index.html

[8] “Anthony Quinn Warner biography: 13 things about Tennessee man,” Conan Daily, December 26 2020, https://conandaily.com/2020/12/26/anthony-quinn-warner-biography-13-things-about-tennessee-man/#comments

[9] Ibid.

[10] “A Quiet Life, a Thunderous Death, and a Nightmare That Shook Nashville,” The New York Times, December 28 2020, https://www.nytimes.com/2020/12/27/us/anthony-quinn-warner-dead.html?referringSource=articleShare

[11] Ibid.

[12] “Nashville bomber Anthony Q. Warner’s motive appears linked to 'more destruction than death,' TBI director says,” The Tennessean, December 28 2020, https://www.tennessean.com/story/news/crime/2020/12/28/nashville-bomber-anthony-quinn-warner-motive-more-destruction-than-death/4058285001/

[13] “Nashville bomber Anthony Q. Warner told his neighbor 'the world is never going to forget me' before Christmas Day blast in which it's feared he may have blown his dogs up with him inside his bomb-rigged RV as FBI release new photo,” Daily Mail, December 28 2020, https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-9092073/After-naming-bombing-suspect-focus-turns-motive.html?ito=social-twitter_dailymailus

[14] “Nashville police records reveal previous complaint of Anthony Warner making bombs in RV,” Fox 16, December 29 2020, https://www.fox16.com/news/top-stories/nashville-police-records-reveal-previous-complaint-of-anthony-warner-making-bombs-in-rv/

[15] “Anthony Warner's girlfriend warned police he was building bombs in his RV last year,” News Channel 5 Nashville, December 29 2020, https://www.newschannel5.com/news/newschannel-5-investigates/warners-girlfriend-warned-police-he-was-building-bombs-in-his-rv-last-year

[16] “Investigators officially ID Nashville bomber as Anthony Warner, say he died in explosion,” Fox17, December 27 2020, https://fox17.com/news/local/investigators-id-nashville-bomber-as-anthony-warner-say-he-died-in-explosion-christmas-downtown-tennessee

[17] “Assessing the threat of lone-actor terrorism: the reliability and validity of the TRAP-18”, NCBI, 2020, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7149273/

[18] Ibid.

[19] “Nashville bomber Anthony Q. Warner’s motive appears linked to 'more destruction than death,' TBI director says,” The Tennessean, December 28 2020, https://www.tennessean.com/story/news/crime/2020/12/28/nashville-bomber-anthony-quinn-warner-motive-more-destruction-than-death/4058285001/

[20] “Something in the Air,” The Atlantic, May 13 2020, https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2020/05/great-5g-conspiracy/611317/

[21] “Nashville bomber Anthony Quinn Warner reportedly thought he’d be ‘hailed a hero’,” New York Post, https://nypost.com/2020/12/28/nashville-bomber-thought-hed-be-a-hero-for-attacking-att-report/

[22] “Nashville Christmas bomber showed interest in 'lizard people' conspiracy theories, sources say,” 6ABC, December 29 2020, https://6abc.com/nashville-bomb-anthony-warner-christmas-day-bombing-video/9166979/

[23] “Fact Check: AT&T Data Center In Nashville Damaged By Bomb Did NOT Have Contract To Audit Dominion Voting Machines,” Lead Stories, December 27 2020, https://leadstories.com/hoax-alert/2020/12/fact-check-att-data-center-in-nashville-damaged-by-bomb-did-not-have-contract-to-audit-dominion-voting-machines.html

[24] Puglisi, Leonardo. Twitter Post. December 27 2020, https://twitter.com/Leo_Puglisi6/status/1343330144312651778

[25] “Conspiracy Theorists Race to Defend Nashville Bomber Anthony Quinn Warner,” The Daily Beast, December 28 2020, https://www.thedailybeast.com/nashville-bomber-anthony-quinn-warner-is-embraced-by-conspiracy-theorists-like-qanon

[26] Ibid.

[27] “Mass Shootings and the Media Contagion Effect,” American Psychological Association, August 2016, https://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/2016/08/media-contagion-effect.pdf

[28] “PICTURED: 'Copycat' driver of box truck arrested for 'blaring spooky message urging people to evacuate' - as cops say he had no connection to Christmas bombing 30 miles away in Nashville,” Daily Mail, December 28 2020, https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-9092691/Nashville-bomb-Cops-identify-driver-truck-PA-telling-people-evacuate.html

[29] “Anthony Warner's girlfriend warned police he was building bombs in his RV last year,” News Channel 5 Nashville, December 29 2020, https://www.newschannel5.com/news/newschannel-5-investigates/warners-girlfriend-warned-police-he-was-building-bombs-in-his-rv-last-year

7 views

© The Counterterrorism Group (CTG) - 2020 - This website and all of its contents are copyrighted by The Counterterrorism Group, Inc. 2020. Any use, reproduction or duplication of the contents of this website without the express written permission of The Counterterrorism Group (CTG) is strictly prohibited.

Interested in joining us? Learn more