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Bomber to neighbor: The world is 'never going to forget me'

NASHVILLE – It seemed like a friendly chat between neighbors. Only after a bomb exploded in Nashville on Christmas morning could Rick Laude grasp the sinister meaning behind his neighbor’s smiling remark that the city and the rest of the world would never forget him.

Laude told The Associated Press on Monday that he was speechless when he learned that authorities identified his 63-year-old neighbor, Anthony Quinn Warner, as the man suspected of detonating a bomb that killed himself, injured three other people and damaged dozens of buildings.

Laude said he saw Warner standing at his mailbox less than a week before Christmas and pulled over in his car to talk. After asking how Warner’s elderly mother was doing, Laude said he casually asked, “Is Santa going to bring you anything good for Christmas?”

Warner smiled and said, “Oh, yeah, Nashville and the world is never going to forget me,” Laude recalled.

Laude said he didn’t think much of the remark and thought Warner only meant that “something good” was going to happen for him financially.

“Nothing about this guy raised any red flags,” Laude said. “He was just quiet.”

Laude said Warner sometimes did not respond when he and other neighbors waved to him, but he didn’t take it personally.

“I knew that he was just a recluse,” Laude said.

Warner left behind clues that suggest he planned the bombing and intended to kill himself, but a clear motive remains elusive.

“We hope to get an answer. Sometimes, it’s just not possible,” David Rausch, director of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, said Monday in an interview on NBC. “The best way to find motive is to talk to the individual. We will not be able to do that in this case.”

Investigators are analyzing Warner’s belongings collected during the investigation, including a computer and a portable storage drive, and continue to interview witnesses as they try to identify a motive for the explosion, a law enforcement official said. A review of his financial transactions also uncovered purchases of potential bomb-making components, the official said.

Warner had recently given away a vehicle and told the person he gave it to that he had been diagnosed with cancer, though it is unclear whether he indeed had cancer, the official said. Investigators used some items collected from the vehicle, including a hat and gloves, to match Warner’s DNA and DNA was taken from one of his family members, the official said.

The official could not discuss the matter publicly and spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity.

Warner also apparently gave away his home in Antioch, a Nashville suburb, to a Los Angeles woman a month before the bombing. A property record dated Nov. 25 indicates Warner transferred the home to the woman in exchange for no money after living there for decades. The woman’s signature is not on that document.

Warner had worked as a computer consultant for Nashville real estate agent Steve Fridrich, who told the AP in a text message that Warner had said he was retiring earlier this month.

Officials said Warner had not been on their radar before Christmas. A law enforcement report released Monday showed that Warner’s only arrest was for a 1978 marijuana-related charge.

“It does appear that the intent was more destruction than death, but again that’s all still speculation at this point as we continue in our investigation with all our partners,” Rausch said.

Furthermore, officials have not provided insight into why Warner selected the particular location for the bombing, which damaged an AT&T building and wreaked havoc on cellphone service and police and hospital communications in several states. By Monday, the company said the majority of services had been restored for residents and businesses.

Forensic analysts were reviewing evidence from the blast site to try to identify the components of the explosives as well as information from the U.S. Bomb Data Center for intelligence and investigative leads, according to a law enforcement official who said investigators were examining Warner’s digital footprint and financial history.

The official, who was not authorized to discuss an ongoing investigation and spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity, said federal agents were examining a number of potential leads and pursuing several theories, including the possibility that the AT&T building was targeted.

Doug Korneski, the special agent in charge of the FBI’s Memphis field office, said Sunday that officials were looking at any and all motives and were interviewing acquaintances of Warner’s to try to determine what may have motivated him.

The bombing took place early on a holiday morning well before downtown streets were bustling with activity. Police were responding to a report of shots fired when they encountered the RV blaring a recorded warning that a bomb would detonate in 15 minutes. Then, for reasons that may never be known, the audio switched to a recording of Petula Clark’s 1964 hit “Downtown” shortly before the blast.

In addition to the DNA found at the blast site, investigators from the Tennessee Highway Patrol were able to link the vehicle identification number recovered from the wreckage to an RV registered to Warner, officials said.

President Donald Trump has spoken to Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee and offered resources and support, according to the governor’s office.

After pandemic delays, Gasper Brewing nearly ready

After months of delays because of the coronavirus pandemic, a veteran craft beer brewer could soon be open in downtown Bowling Green.

Isaiah King, who has won awards for his craft beers, has worked for more than a year to get his Gasper Brewing Co. established at 302 State St., and he is now aiming to open in January.

“We’re looking at the first weekend in January,” King said. “We were making a push to open in November or December, and then the governor announced more restrictions (on restaurants and bars).

“Now that we can operate at 50 percent of capacity, it’s a good time.”

King and his wife, DeAnna King, started working in 2019 on a plan to convert the 9,000-square-foot building into a combination brewery and yoga studio, but he said that the plan now is to get the brewery going first.

Opening of the yoga studio, to be run by DeAnna King and called Saffron Yoga, will be delayed until February or March, Isaiah King said.

An engineer who worked in Colorado and Alabama before settling back in his native Kentucky in 2015, Isaiah King mostly did home brewing and gave his ales and stouts to friends and family before success at the 2019 Kentucky Craft Beer Festival in Elizabethtown convinced him that brewing could be more than a hobby.

He took first place in the festival’s brewing competition with an Irish oatmeal imperial stout and won second place for his California coffee beer.

Now, he will set up shop in a building that has in the past been home to an automobile dealership and a feed store and is located across the street from Shake Rag Barbershop.

“We want to try to pull more businesses toward the Shake Rag District and help that area,” DeAnna King said when she and her husband were first planning to open the brewery/yoga studio.

In addition to his craft beer creations, Isaiah King hopes Gasper Brewing Co. can bring more food options downtown.

“We plan to supplement the brewery with some food trucks,” he said, adding that he could make room for a permanent restaurant vendor in the building.

He said he is negotiating with Cotton BBQ, a Texas-style barbecue food truck that regularly sets up at Rian’s Fatted Calf meat shop on Broadway Avenue, about moving into the 302 State St. building.

“Cotton BBQ has quite a following,” Isaiah King said. “It would be mutually beneficial.”

Eric Cotton, who started Cotton BBQ in May 2019, said he has been “pretty successful” with the food truck but has been hesitant to jump into a brick-and-mortar store during the pandemic.

“For me, the pandemic is still pushing that plan back,” Cotton said. “My plan is still to do a brick-and-mortar location, and I hope it’s in that (302 State St.) building. It would be fun to be a part of that area.”

– Follow business reporter Don Sergent on Twitter @BGDNbusiness or visit bgdailynews.com.

Medical officials use new tool for COVID patients

GLASGOW – The Barren-Metcalfe County Emergency Medical Service will soon implement a new medical device that will benefit COVID-19 patients as well as emergency medical personnel.

The medical device, the Sea-Long helmet, is a clear, plastic helmet that fits over a patient’s head and is secured with an airtight seal around the patient’s neck that sits on the patient’s shoulders.

“One of the big problems has been how do you treat and transport patients who are COVID positive who don’t necessarily need to be intubated and put on a ventilator,” said Eric Bauer, assistant director of the Barren-Metcalfe County EMS and the Hart County Ambulance Service.

The Sea-Long helmet is seen as the solution.

It will be used for COVID patients who are sick but don’t need the help of a CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) machine or a BiPAP (Bilevel Positive Airway Pressure) machine to breathe.

The Sea-Long helmet will give emergency medical personnel a better way to oxygenate COVID patients without putting themselves at risk of contracting the virus.

Bauer, a paramedic who is also director of clinical services for both emergency medical agencies, learned about Sea-Long helmets when he sold a critical care education company he founded, FlightBridgeED, LLC, to a medical flight company, Life Link III, in Minnesota.

“They were the first flight company in the Untied States to see this technology and to go through testing and identify the use based on COVID patients. That is how I originally identified the helmet,” he said. “I went through the training within that flight company and then as they started transporting patients, flying patients, Sea-Long actually came to the company that I owned and used us to kind of get the word out.”

Life Link III is the only medical flight company Bauer knows of that is flying COVID-19 patients in helicopters equipped with Sea-Long helmets.

“Sea-Long helmets have been around for a long, long time. They were originally used as a way to facilitate hyperbaric therapy for scuba diving,” Bauer said.

Emergency medical personnel benefit from the use of the Sea-Long helmet due to it having the capability of filtering the air exhaled by a COVID patient.

“It’s going to improve the (respiratory) status of the COVID patient and then also provide a certain level of protection to our employees,” said Dr. Joe Middleton, executive director of the Barren-Metcalfe County EMS and Hart County Ambulance Service.

The helmets are manufactured by Sea-Long Medical Systems Inc., a company owned by Chris Austin, who purchased it in 2016 and relocated its headquarters from Kentucky to Texas, according to the company’s website.

In 2016, University of Chicago researchers led a study that showed the use of the helmets in place of oxygen masks that cover the nose and mouth helped critically ill patients breathe better and can prevent the need to intubate. The study also showed patients who used the helmets spent less time in the intensive care unit and had better survival rates, according to an article posted on the University of Chicago Medicine website.

Before the University of Chicago’s research, similar helmets were widely used in Italy, according to a March NBC News report.

Austin modified the helmet so it could be used to help COVID-19 patients.

Bauer had never heard of the Sea-Long helmet until it was being used to help COVID-19 patients. He decided it could be something that would be beneficial for both emergency medical service agencies.

“My role here at Barren-Metcalfe and Hart County (Ambulance Service) is to guide the clinical services division. I’m trying to bring the most state-of-the-art types of treatments that we can safely employ to the citizens of this area,” he said.

The Barren-Metcalfe County EMS has purchased mechanical ventilators for use with the Sea-Long helmets. The new ventilators are similar to those that are used by medical helicopters.

Bauer wants to make sure paramedics with both emergency medical service agencies are properly trained in critical care. Only those who have such training will be authorized to use the helmets and ventilators.

He anticipates putting the helmets and ventilators in use by the first of January. If there was a patient need for a helmet and ventilator now, he said he would probably take that patient himself.

The emergency medical service agencies are always looking for new and more efficient ways of taking care of patients, Middleton said.

“This product is going to be of great benefit to the patients, especially the COVID population that we are now being challenged with,” he said.

Initially, the Sea-Long helmets will only be used by the Barren-Metcalfe County EMS because the Hart County Ambulance Service doesn’t have the ventilators needed for use along with them.

“But it is something that will be migrating that way once Hart County has the equipment to handle the device,” Middleton said.

House approves Trump's $2K checks, sending to GOP-led Senate

WASHINGTON – The House voted overwhelmingly Monday to increase COVID-19 relief checks to $2,000, meeting President Donald Trump’s call for bigger payments and sending the bill to the Republican-controlled Senate, where the outcome is uncertain.

Democrats led passage, 275-134, their majority favoring additional assistance. Dozens of Republicans joined in approval, preferring to link with Democrats rather than buck the outgoing president.

Congress had settled earlier on $600 payments in a compromise over the major relief bill Trump reluctantly signed into law. Democrats favored higher payments, but Trump’s push put his GOP allies in a difficult spot.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., declared: “Republicans have a choice: Vote for this legislation or vote to deny the American people” the assistance she said they need during the pandemic.

Senators were set to return to session Tuesday, but the showdown could end up as more symbol than substance.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has declined to say publicly how the Senate will handle the bill.

The legislative action Monday may do little to change the $2 trillion-plus COVID-19 relief and federal spending package that Trump signed into law Sunday, one of the biggest bills of its kind.

Rep. Kevin Brady of Texas, chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, acknowledged the division and said Congress had already approved ample funds during the COVID-19 crisis. “Nothing in this bill helps anybody get back to work,” he said.

The package the president signed into law includes two parts – $900 billion in COVID-19 aid and $1.4 trillion to fund government agencies. It will deliver long-sought cash to businesses and individuals and avert a federal government shutdown that otherwise would have started Tuesday.

Aside from the direct $600 checks to most Americans, the COVID-19 portion of the bill revives a weekly pandemic jobless benefit boost – this time $300, through March 14 – as well as a popular Paycheck Protection Program of grants to businesses to keep workers on payrolls. It extends eviction protections, adding a new rental assistance fund.

The COVID-19 package draws and expands on an earlier effort from Washington.

It offers billions of dollars for vaccine purchases and distribution, for virus contact tracing, public health departments, schools, universities, farmers, food pantry programs and other institutions and groups facing hardship in the pandemic.

Americans earning up to $75,000 will qualify for the direct $600 payments, which are phased out at higher income levels, and there’s an additional $600 payment per dependent child.

Meantime the government funding portion of the bill keeps federal agencies nationwide running without dramatic changes until Sept. 30.

Trump’s decision to sign the bill in Florida, where he is spending the holidays, came as he faced escalating criticism from lawmakers on all sides over his demands. The bipartisan bill negotiated by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin had already passed the House and Senate by wide margins. Lawmakers thought they had Trump’s blessing after months of negotiations with his administration.

The president’s refusal to act, publicized with a video he tweeted just before Christmas, sparked a lapse in unemployment benefits for millions and the threat of a government shutdown.

In his statement about the signing, Trump repeated his frustrations with the COVID-19 relief bill for providing only $600 checks to most Americans and complained about what he considered unnecessary spending, particularly on foreign aid.

While the president insisted he would send Congress “a redlined version” with spending items he wants removed, those are merely suggestions to Congress. Democrats said they would resist such cuts.

For now, the administration can only begin work sending out the $600 payments.

A day after the signing, Trump was back at the golf course in Florida, the state where he is expected to move after President-elect Joe Biden is sworn in Jan. 20.

Republican Rep. Mo Brooks of Alabama, who supported Trump’s challenge of the election results, counted himself among the opponents of a more generous relief package and the call for higher payments.

But Republican Rep. Elise Stefanik of New York said she was open to the idea of $2,000 checks. “Many Americans are in dire need of relief,” she said.

Biden told reporters he supported the $2,000 checks.

defense bill

The House voted Monday to override Trump’s veto of a defense policy bill.

House members voted 322-87 to override the veto, well above the two-thirds needed to override. If approved by two-thirds of the Senate, the override would be the first of Trump’s presidency.

Trump rejected the defense bill last week, saying it failed to limit social media companies he claims were biased against him during his failed reelection campaign. Trump also opposes language that allows for the renaming of military bases that honor Confederate leaders.

The defense bill, known as the National Defense Authorization Act, or NDAA, affirms 3% pay raises for U.S. troops and authorizes more than $740 billion in military programs and construction.

Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, called the bill “absolutely vital to our national security and our troops. ... Our men and women who volunteer to wear the uniform shouldn’t be denied what they need – ever.”

Trump has offered a series of rationales for rejecting the bill. In his veto message, he said the bill restricts his ability to conduct foreign policy, “particularly my efforts to bring our troops home.’’ Trump was referring to provisions in the bill that impose conditions on his plan to withdraw thousands of troops from Afghanistan and Germany. The measures require the Pentagon to submit reports certifying that the proposed withdrawals would not jeopardize U.S. national security.