Nashville explosion: Heroic cops recall harrowing moments before blast

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Five Nashville cops on Sunday recalled the chaos and horror of the RV bomb blast that rocked the city’s downtown Christmas morning — and their frantic efforts to evacuate the area as a blaring audio recording counted down the minutes to hell.

“I just see orange, and then I hear a loud boom,” said Officer James Wells, the cop closest to the RV at the time of the blast, during the press briefing. “It rocked me down hard. I start stumbling and just tell myself to stay on my feet.

“Stay alive.”

Wells was one of the cops who responded to a report of gunfire along a commercial stretch of the Music City, which normally would have been hopping but was largely deserted Christmas morning.

The first cops to arrive at the scene, Officers James Luellen and Brenna Hosey, found no sign of gunplay — but instead soon heard a chilling audio recording emanating from an RV parked outside an AT&T building urging anyone who could hear it to clear the area.

“I wasn’t quite sure what I heard, so I looked at Officer Hosey just to verify we heard the same thing,” Luellen said. “And then [the recording] started over.”

Luellen radioed in to Sgt. Timothy Miller, who ordered Luellen to call for back-up while he made his own way over.

A short distance away, Wells and Officer Amanda Topping were nearing the end of their shifts.

“My wife had just called because it’s towards the end of our shift, so she’s seeing what time I was coming home,” Topping recalled. “I’m like, ‘Well, we’re about to head to this call, it’s a little strange.’ “

Wells and Topping headed over to the scene — initially parking their patrol car right next to the explosive-rigged RV, unaware at the time of its role in the growing chaos.

As the ominous recording played, “Of course we moved, because that seemed ideal,” Topping wryly recalled.

As Miller directed operations, Luellen, Hosey, Wells, Topping and Officer Michael Sipos started evacuating area buildings and blocking off traffic to the area.

All the while, the recording from the RV counted down the minutes to the explosion.

Hosey recalled her and Sipos knocking on one woman’s door in particular.

“Sipos and I knocked on her door, scared the bejesus out of her,” said Hosey. “I told her that there was a threat in the area and we needed her to evacuate. She said, ‘OK, let me get my kids.’

“That kind of just put my heart up in my throat. I don’t have kids, but I have cousins and nieces and people that I love that are small. So I’m thinking maybe one or two kids,” Hosey said. “She ended up having four kids.”

Wells, too, was helping evacuate the area, all the while fearing an ambush.

“I actually told everybody when we came out to make sure we look at the high ground and parking garages, just in case … [for an] active shooter,” he said. “Every time we came out of the building, we made sure that we were looking around and checking high areas, just making sure nobody was peeking around and looking at us.

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