By EMILY R. WEST
Saturday afternoon authorities from multiple police agencies across Williamson County stabilized a bomb that had been planted in a car at the NHC Place Cool Springs facility.
Police are currently looking for suspect Mitchell Hunter Oakes, who authorities said they believe is responsible for leaving the device in a NHC’s employee’s car. In a press conference after they secured the facility, the Franklin Police Department spokesperson said an NHC employee who found the device in her car was the target of the attack.
Police were notified at 7:15 a.m., when the employee saw the device in her car.
Bomb Specialists from the Tennessee Highway Patrol and FBI assisted the with the incident, along with the Franklin Fire Department, Williamson County EMS, Emergency Management, and Sheriff’s Office.
“We want desperately to get this person of interest into custody,” FPD Public Information Officer Lt. Charles Warner said. “This suspect has a known connection to the person who works at NHC who went out to her car at the end of her shift. We have very strong reason to believe he is responsible because there is a history between these two. I am not absolutely positive of the relationship, but I do believe they are engaged in someway, whether they are married, used to be married, or otherwise romantically involved.”
Warner said had the device gone off, it would have caused significant harm. He said he couldn’t describe the device itself, but that it was “sophisticated.” He added the suspect is a convicted felon with a violent history and extensive knowledge of bomb making and weapons. Police consider him armed and dangerous.
During the process, those waiting to see family members waited across the street on the corner on Mission Court and Cool Springs Boulevard. Around 1:50 p.m., they heard a small boom when authorities used a robot to stabilize the bomb.
“We are extremely thankful the device didn’t go off when she opened her car door,” Warner said. “The consequences would have certainly been tragic for her, and quite possibly for residents inside the facility. Things were done the right way for the employee and the facility, who moved patients to safety.”
When it came to handling patients inside, NHC personnel said their staff handled the situation appropriately. According to NHC chief operating officer Mike Ussery, the staff implemented the plan they had in place for this type of situation. He said staff routinely undergo drills to prepare for different emergencies. When he arrived at the facility at 11 a.m., he found the environment among the staff and residents to be low-key.
“The patients, other than being in different surroundings, were absolutely calm,” Ussery said. “Everyone was calm and the staff was handling things well and interacting with patients.”
Ussery said that as the media became aware, the facility received phone calls. During the process, no families were allowed to enter NHC while police investigated. Approximately 60 patients had to move out of their rooms while authorities neutralized the bomb. NHC is still continuing to notify families of Saturday’s incident.
“The first thing they did was move patients that would have been most immediately impacted by, what at that time, didn’t know was a real explosive device,” he said. “They moved out of their normal rooms to different part of the building. They have continued to be served just as well be it a different local.”
Franklin Police and the ATF are offering a reward of up to $7,500 for information leading police to his whereabouts.