VIDEO-Feds probing whether Nashville bomber believed in lizard people conspiracy

Dec. 30, 2020, 11:58 AM EST  /  Updated Dec. 30, 2020, 12:35 PM EST

By Tom Winter, Michael Kosnar and Wilson Wong

Investigators are exploring several conspiracy theories as potential motives behind the Christmas Day bombing outside an AT&T building in Nashville, Tennessee, including evidence that the bomber believed in lizard people and a so-called reptilian conspiracy, two senior law enforcement officials said Wednesday.

Investigators are expected to conclude their crime scene work this week, but it could take several more weeks until they determine the motive of the bomber, Anthony Quinn Warner, who died in the blast.

Since Saturday, authorities have been examining Warner’s digital devices — which an official said includes a significant trove of pictures, videos and writings — looking for any clues to what drove the man to set off a powerful bomb inside his recreational vehicle, which took down communications networks and injured several people in downtown Nashville.

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Specifically, investigators are looking into the suspect’s previous trips to an undisclosed location in Tennessee where he would camp out in his recreational vehicle and, according to the suspect’s statements to others, hunt possible aliens, the officials said.

In addition, investigators are aware of statements the suspect made about an internet conspiracy that powerful politicians and Hollywood figures are actually lizards or other reptiles who have extraterrestrial origins and are taking over society, the officials said.

Adherents of the unfounded conspiracy theory believe that politicians and other prominent people, including the Clintons and the comedian Bob Hope, who died in 2003, are actually lizard-like creatures sent to Earth and are responsible for a number of historic tragedies. Justin Bieber and the Obamas have also been named in the conspiracy theory.

Federal investigators have also asked associates and acquaintances of Warner whether he believed in equally unfounded conspiracy theories about AT&T and 5G mobile service and whether that was a motive for choosing the AT&T building as the site of the bombing.

A senior law enforcement official said investigators have cast a wide net that includes family, friends, neighbors, acquaintances and businesses where he may have bought bomb-making supplies.

Metropolitan Nashville Police Chief John Drake acknowledged that the department had no officers on the Nashville Joint Terrorism Task Force, a group of federal, state and local law enforcement agencies whose primary mission is to investigate potential terrorist threats.

Drake said he would rectify the issue and assign an officer to the task force, which would allow his department to get the latest briefings from the FBI around the world.

More than a year before the bombing, Warner's girlfriend warned police that he was building bombs in an RV parked at his home, according to police reports.

On Aug. 21, 2019, an attorney for Warner's girlfriend told officers that Warner “frequently talks about the military and bomb making,” according to an incident report released by police.

The lawyer’s call prompted officers to visit Warner’s house, where they knocked on the front door to no avail, according to the report. Officers wrote that they spotted “several security cameras and wires attached to an alarm at the front door,” the report said.

Officers said they spotted an RV parked behind a fence in the backyard, but they said they could not see inside the vehicle. Authorities identified an RV linked to Warner as the source of the Christmas Day explosion.

Police said Wednesday that the officers saw no evidence of a crime and had no authority to enter the property or the fenced-in backyard. They also determined that the girlfriend was in need of “psychological evaluation,” and she was taken to a hospital, according to police.

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The day after officers visited Warner’s house, an incident report was forwarded to the FBI by the police, which said they had asked the agency and the Defense Department to run a records search on Warner. Police said a search from both databases found no results.

Nashville police did not say they had asked the FBI to open an investigation into Warner, but they said their Hazardous Devices Unit followed up on the incident report with the lawyer. According to police, the lawyer told them that Warner “did not care for the police” and that he would not allow a visual inspection of the RV.

David Rausch, director of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, told reporters this week that Warner was not on the agency's radar before the bombing, except for one arrest for marijuana possession in 1978.

A spokesperson for the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation said Wednesday they it was previously unaware of the incident involving Nashville police and Warner’s girlfriend.

The spokesperson said in a statement: “To be clear, the remarks our Director made about him ‘not being on our radar’ were specific to our agency and not all of law enforcement.”

The FBI said that unlike in other cases, such as those of the Boston Marathon bomber, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, or Omar Mateen, the shooter at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida, it was asked only to run a database search on Warner and was not asked to open an investigation.

Police did not immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday.

Warner, 63, who was described as a “loner” by people who knew him, had recently retired as an information technology consultant, NBC News reported Monday.

Officers were responding to reports of gunfire in the area on Christmas morning when, instead, they heard a warning of an explosion coming from an RV parked outside an AT&T building. Authorities said the blast, which authorities believe was set off by Warner, went off at 6:30 a.m. Friday, rippling across several blocks downtown.

The explosion injured at least three people and damaged more than 40 businesses. Warner was the only person killed in the blast.

Tom Winter

Tom Winter is a New York-based correspondent covering crime, courts, terrorism and financial fraud on the East Coast for the NBC News Investigative Unit.

Michael Kosnar

Michael Kosnar is a Justice Department producer for the NBC News Washington Bureau.

Wilson Wong

Wilson Wong is a breaking news reporter with NBC News. 

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