I’m about to give the entire law enforcement world a gift…special tip of the hat to the Metro Nashville Police Department. Wherever you’re listening, be it Ireland, England, Hong Kong, Manila, Wales…I’m wrapping this present to you in a bow. On Christmas day, 2020, a bomber drove a white van to the AT&T building in downtown Nashville and announced over a loud speaker in the van that there would be an explosion in 15 minutes.
Don Aaron has been the Metro Nashville PD spokesman for forever. He said after police got an ominous report shortly after six Christmas morning:
“An officer responded and after assessing the vehicle had reason to call our hazardous devices unit. The hazardous devices unit was in route to the downtown area when an explosion linked to that vehicle took place at 6:30.”
This is was what it sounded like because this is actual audio of the explosion.
As you’d imagine, there was pandemonium and chaos, but, unbelievably, the only loss of life was the bomber himself. Partially because of the time of day and the day of the year. But, not in small part because there were six Nashville officers on the scene in that 15 minute window…who literally bolted into action. This is officer Tyler Llewellyn:
“Initially we got a shots fired call. I was running zone that night, so I took it. Officer Hosey backed me up. I arrived on scene initially. I didn’t hear any shots fired, nothing like that. We were told that shots were coming from inside the building at 178 Second Ave North. Upon arrival, I checked because it’s a liquor store slash apartment complex and Airbnb that has same address. Check the bottom floor. Couldn’t see anything immediately, couldn’t hear anything. At that time I requested code to get access into the building. I was waiting on Officer Hosey to show up and get the code. Shortly after Officer Hosey showed up, as soon as she got out of the car, almost immediately, the RV started making an announcement somewhere along the lines…Don’t quote me exactly, but it’s, there’s a large bomb within this vehicle. Your primary objective is to evacuate.
I wasn’t quite sure what I heard. So I looked at officer Hosey just to verify we heard the same thing. And then it started over. At that time. I called and notified Sergeant Miller. He had said, get everyone you can out there. I requested all units available from our precinct to come. They show up. I asked Officer Topping and Wells to block off Second and Broadway, Second and Commerce. They did. Officer Sipos and Hosey went inside to start knocking on doors. And Officer Wells came up at this time. Sergeant Miller’s there. I asked him for any further directives, stuff like that. At that time we set up our cars to kind of set up as much of a barricade as we can keep people out. We go inside. Just before we go inside, probably about five minutes after we’re there, I’d say, that the timer then started counting down. Officer Hosey and Officer Wells are the first ones that noticed that. In between this, I did look at the RV, notice that all the shades were down and kind of walked around it to see if there was a tag or anything like that, to try and get more info. I did not notice one. From there, myself, Officer Hosey Wells, and Sipos went into the building and knocked on all the doors. We tried to notify as many people as we could, that we had a possible public safety concern and that we needed people to evacuate.”
I know you’re probably aware the bomber had apparently been a conspiracy theorist or more accurately, a conspiracies theorist, a man who had seemingly been planning his evil doing for many months. Just like me, you can follow the machinations of the story with a simple Google search. But what I had never seen before was the virtually immediate feting of the six as heroes…and Nashville did it right! Not only did their names and photos appear in the national, yes, international news media within hours, but also they were made available to the media for interviews within a day. It was such a fantastic and beautiful PR move by the Metro Nashville PD. It made me wonder, when are other law enforcement agencies truly going to get with the program? When an opportunity to honor officers arises in your community, do you take advantage of it?
Just before Christmas, A young Massachusetts cop was called to arrest two women who had been scanning some, but not all their groceries in a self service checkout line. When he questioned them, they said they’d fallen upon hard times and could not afford to pay for all the food. There were also two small children with them. Pulling one of the women aside, Somerset, MA, Officer Matt Lima said:
“She explained that she was working right now, but the mother of the children was not working. There were some other family issues going on. And that what she had taken was a Christmas dinner for the kids.”
The story hit officer Lima, where it counted…in his heart.
“I have two girls myself, who are similar in age to the two girls that were there. So that kind of struck me a little bit.”
So he provided them $250 gift cards out of his own pocket, so they could have a decent Christmas dinner.
“They were very thankful. They were kind of shocked. And I’m sure a lot of people in that same situation would be thinking that there was going to be a different outcome. I just did what I felt like was right. You know, I just tried to put myself in that, that family’s shoes and show a little bit of empathy.”
When I read the story on a local blog, I thought…the news media will never, ever pick up on this one because it’s all about bashing the police whenever and wherever possible. How wrong I was. Within a day or so, and literally continuing for over a week into the new year, Officer Matt Lima’s lovely gesture got here again, just like Nashville, international media coverage. Here’s a gift, therefore from me to you going forward. We all know officer’s do fantastic things, positive things every day by the thousands. Some of it’s happening right now. And maybe even on your beat. Maybe it’s time for you and your department to learn the lesson, which Metro Nashville has so wonderfully pioneered for us. I’m calling it the ‘Nashville Effect.’ When somebody in uniform does something truly courageous, heroic…yes, even just a decent or compassionate gesture, shout it to the world!
Get that narrative out there. Find out every cop friendly reporter in your town and put it out there. Make that cop available for an interview. Give him or her an incentive or two…even a $20 gift card to Panera bread or bring in donuts for all the troops on his shift; make it a good thing and an open thing. Let’s finally quit making the beautiful gestures of cops something that needs to be some sort of little gold nugget waiting to be discovered. Think about it. In this age of instantaneous communication, don’t forget the ‘Nashville effect.’ The world awaits the good news and God knows we need it!
Thank you for listening and that’s Stuff You Never Ever Learned at the Academy. I’m Ron Barber.