MNPD Hero: Officer Tyler Luellen the first on the scene before the Christmas morning blast

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Posted at 11:16 AM, Dec 27, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-27 13:43:50-05

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Thanks to the actions of six officers with the Metro Nashville Police Department, the Christmas morning bombing in downtown Nashville injured only a handful of people, none critically.

The first officer on the scene was Tyler Luellen. Responding to a "shots fired" call, Luellen arrived on Second Avenue in Nashville about five minutes before the RV began counting down to its explosion.

"Initially, I didn't hear any shots fired," Luellen said during a press conference on Sunday morning. "We were told shots were coming from inside the building at 178 Second Avenue North."

"I checked the bottom floor," Luellen said, "couldn't see anything, couldn't hear anything." While waiting on a code to get in the building, officer Breanna Hosey arrived on scene, and "almost immediately" the RV starting making an announcement: there is a large bomb in this vehicle.

"I wasn't quite sure what I heard," Luellen said, "so I looked at officer Hosey and verified we heard the same thing, and then it started over. At that time, I called and notified Sgt. [Timothy] Miller. He said get everyone you can out there."

As officers come to assist, a plan is quickly being put into motion. Luellen asked two officers are asked to help block Second and Commerce. Others, including Luellen, begin going into homes to evacuate families.

The announcement from the RV began as a warning for people to leave the area. Luellen says about five minutes after everyone arrived it turned into a countdown:

14 minutes until detonation.

When Luellen first arrived on the scene, he says he didn't really notice the RV. It was Christmas morning, after all, and once he did notice it he thought someone might be visiting family. Once the announcement started being made, however, things changed. Luellen says he noticed the shades were down. He checked for a tag, but couldn't find one.

Luellen and his fellow officers began knocking on doors. Noticing a basement exit, they asked people in six to seven apartments to leave through the basement. They then began moving down the street, Luellen northbound, the other south.

Sometime later, Luellen says the countdown stopped, and the RV began to broadcast music instead. "Downtown" by Petula Clark. Once the song played, the announcement began again, telling people to evacuate the area.

"After it switched back, I noticed there was a gentleman and his dog that came out of 217 Second Avenue North," Luellen said. "I noticed him, I went up to him to notify 'hey, you need to get inside and notify anyone you can and please evacuate.' Shortly after that, the explosion went off."

Luellen was knocked to the ground. He immediately got up and noticed the gentleman, in shock, with his dog and checked on him. He then when to check on Sgt. Miller, who was inside his car. The airbag had deployed, but he was good.

He then saw two other officers, and when they seemed OK, he ran forward closer to the explosion. He then noticed four people coming out of a nearby building in shock. Luellen told them to run to safety, which they did.

It was then he noticed that other cars were on fire, and Luellen pulled back.

"They didn't think about their own lives," MNPD police chief John Drake said of the six officers' actions on Christmas morning. "They thought about the citizens of Nashville and protecting them."

"They might not think they're heroes because they go about this job each and every day, but they are our heroes, and they had a really heroic effort that morning."