No sooner had Anthony Quinn Warner been named as a person of interest in an apparent Christmas Day suicide bombing in Nashville, Tennessee, than conspiratorial circles began casting doubt on his identity, or else applauding his actions.
Warner, 63, is accused of setting off a bomb in downtown Nashville early Christmas morning, damaging more than 40 businesses, killing himself, and injuring several others. Investigators have not yet identified a motive for the attack. Nevertheless, a certain pro-Trump segment appears to have taken up the bomber’s side, with another Tennessee man allegedly attempting a similar threat—albeit without any actual explosives—on Sunday.
Officials have not announced Warner’s possible motives, or whether the incident is being treated as an act of terror. Early reports suggest the FBI is investigating whether Warner (who law enforcement officials say set off the bomb from a recreational vehicle outside an AT&T building) was influenced by conspiracy theories about 5G technology. A realtor who worked with Warner who was questioned by the FBI told Nashville’s WSMV that agents asked about Warner’s interest in the technology, but that they did not know whether he held any such beliefs.
Even before those potential motives came to light, however, some conspiracy movements were already looking to exonerate Warner. Moments after his name emerged in connection with the case, subscribers to the far-right QAnon conspiracy movement began flooding Twitter with absurd ideas, falsely claiming that Warner was an actor, partially because a different Anthony Quinn was a Hollywood star before dying in 2001. Other QAnon followers broke down his name to associate his initials with made-up clues, or to dissect parts of his name to display “Q WARN.”
The theorizing didn’t stop at anonymous Twitter accounts. Lin Wood, an attorney attempting to overturn the election in President Donald Trump’s favor, appeared to cast doubt on the bombing in multiple tweets. In one, he included Warner’s name in a tweet about false accusations. In another, he tweeted pictures of a ruined stretch of Nashville’s downtown, noting that “that RV sure packed a powerful punch. Or did it?”
Wood did not return a request for clarification on the tweets.
For his part, Trump, who has previously raged against acts of property damage, accusing leftists of terror, has been markedly muted on the bombing.
“President Trump has been briefed on the explosion in Nashville, Tennessee, and will continue to receive regular updates,” White House spokesman Judd Deere told the Washington Post in a statement on Friday. “The President is grateful for the incredible first responders and praying for those who were injured.”
Trump has not yet tweeted about the attack. Asked whether Trump had made or was planning a comment, Deere told The Daily Beast, “I’m his spokesperson and I have, so yes he has.”
While QAnon supporters debated Warner’s innocence, pro-terror channels on the messaging platform Telegram openly embraced his tactics. Some of those channels, which have called for civil war and violent attacks, cheered the possibility that Warner might have been a QAnon-influenced terrorist—or, in the provenance of these groups that pray for violence from aged conspiracy theorists, a “boomer bomber.”
On Sunday, another Tenneseean allegedly mimicked Warner’s bomb threat, albeit without the bomb. James Turgeon, 33, is accused of driving a truck through Nashville-adjacent Rutherford County, while broadcasting a warning similar to the one Warner played from his RV before the bomb exploded. Although Turgeon was said to play similar audio, officials said Turgeon and Warner appeared unconnected.
Turgeon’s motives are also unknown, although his digital footprint is larger than Warner’s, who did not appear to have had public social media under his own name. On Facebook, Turgeon shared multiple memes about standing with Trump on November 7, after President-elect Joe Biden’s victory became apparent.
Turgeon, who is being held on a $500,000 bond, was charged with two felony counts of filing a false report, and one count of tampering with evidence. It was not immediately clear whether he had a lawyer.
David Rausch, director of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, told media on Monday that Turgeon seemed to have grafted off Warner’s bombing.
"There is no connection other than the individual taking advantage of the situation," Rausch said Monday.