The five responding officers gave their accounts of what happened as investigators continued to chip away at the motive of the bombing of a recreational vehicle that blew up on a mostly deserted street just after it issued a recorded warning advising people to evacuate.
“I just see orange and then I hear a loud boom. As I’m stumbling around, I just tell myself to stay on my feet and to stay alive,” Wells said, at times tearing up and repeating that he believed he heard God tell him to walk away moments before the blast.
Officer Amanda Topping said she initially parked their police car beside the RV while responding to the call before moving it once they heard the recording playing. Topping said she called her wife to let her know that “things were just really strange” as she helped guide people away from the RV.
That’s when she heard the announcement from the RV switch from a warning to playing the 1964 hit “Downtown” by Petula Clark. Moments later the explosion hit.
“I felt the waves of heat but I kind of just lost it and started sprinting toward [Wells],” Topping said. “I’ve never grabbed someone so hard in my life.”
Officer Brenna Hosey said she and her colleagues knocked on six or seven doors in nearby apartments to warn people to evacuate. She particularly remembered knocking on a door where a startled mother of four children answered.
“I don’t have kids but I have cousins and nieces, people who I love who are small,” Hosey said, adding she had to plead with the family to leave the building as quickly as possible.
The attack, which damaged an AT&T building, has continued to wreak havoc on cellphone service and police and hospital communications in several Southern states as the company worked to restore service.