NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — A miscommunication led to several Metro Nashville SWAT officers in danger during the Let Freedom Sing! Music City July Fourth celebration.
According to Metro Nashville Police Department Public Affairs Manager Don Aaron, officers and personnel on the department's helicopter were still in the blast zone when the fireworks eventually began Sunday night.
SWAT officers had to shelter inside a building until the fireworks show was over.
Aaron said prior to the start of the fireworks, Nashville Fire Department personnel spotted someone on the roof of the Bridge Building. A MNPD helicopter flew to the area and confirmed there was someone on the roof.
Eventually, SWAT officers were sent to the building and found a Bridge Building employee and three of her friends. They were escorted out of the building and SWAT officers went back inside for a final sweep to make sure the building was empty.
While SWAT officers were in the building and the helicopter was overhead, Aaron said a security guard exited the building and told an NFD Arson Investigator that he was the last one in the building and that it was empty.
"Without going through command and without checking with MNPD to ensure our personnel were out of the building, the message was relayed to start the fireworks show. Command was not advised the show had commenced," Aaron said in a statement.
Butch Spyridon of the Nashville Convention & Visitors Corporation says by the time officials realized the mistake, it was too late.
The helicopter was able to get out of the area safely and two teams of SWAT officers sheltered inside the building until the fireworks show ended.
"Personnel that were in the building were directed to go to a special location at the bottom and that they would be safe," Spyridon said.
Spyridon referred to it as a "missing link" in the communication chain between fire and PD. He says "that has been corrected," although the Nashville Fire Department said it will work with MNPD to investigate what led to the miscommunication. As of Monday, none of the four people who were escorted out of the Bridge Building are facing any charges.
Spyridon says it's for this reason that they rent out the Bridge Building any chance they can during the fireworks displays. This year they rented out the top three floors according to a contact from Infinity Hospitality. They tell us the employee was new and walked to the building. The employee explained that they were never stopped by law enforcement, so they figured the building was fair game. There was no indication that this employee would face any penalties.
Metro Councilman Freddie O'Connell, who represents the downtown district, says while the city does a good job planning and putting on big events like Let Freedom Sing, events like Sunday show that there needs to be more double checking ahead of certain activities like the fireworks launch.
"Now we have something else to add to the checklist for any event going forward -- lets make sure we've cleared with chain of command any time we are clearing officers in a scenario," O'Connell said.