One of the six heroic police officers who helped evacuate people to save lives before a massive bomb exploded in downtown Nashville on Christmas morning said that what may have saved his life was hearing the voice of God telling him to check the safety of a female officer moments before the blast went off.
Officer James Wells recalled that fellow officer James Luellen alerted his fellow officers about the situation. Wells stated:
Just by the tone in his voice, we knew it was serious. He said it was a possible bomb situation … at the time I was sitting right next to Officer Topping. So we got over there as quick as we could, not knowing that the RV was the vehicle in question. At the time, we actually pulled right in front of it. So, this is right across the street. We pulled up and then when we heard the announcement, Topping was like, “Is that the vehicle in question?” and Luellen said yes. We hopped in our cars and backed out, and we started setting up a perimeter to start shutting down Commerce and Broadway to make sure nobody could come in or out.
“Then Luellen called for more people to come help evacuate the building, which I did,” Wells continued. “At that point was when I heard, ‘You have 14 minutes to evacuate the area,’ and at that point is when I started to prepare my mind for secondary things to happen. I actually told everybody when we come out to make sure we look at the high ground and parking garages, just in case. I felt like maybe an active shooter might have followed that just because … at that moment it felt real, and it felt like there was going to be some secondary activity. So every time we came out of the building, we made sure that we were looking around and checking high areas, just making sure nobody was peeking around and looking at us.”
“So we continued to go door to door, trying to get codes from dispatch to get in; we get down to 2nd and Commerce, and that’s when we hear the ‘three minutes’ as we’re coming out of the building, and at that point I told them I was going to go back to my car and get my heavy plates, just mentally getting prepared for whatever was about to happen,” Wells said.
Wells noted that he was told to pull his car back because he was in the intersection, so he pulled his car back between the buildings.
At that point, I get out, and I’m starting to go back toward Luellen and (Officer Brenda) Hosey, and as I’m getting ready to walk toward them, walking back toward the RV, this might not be politically correct, but this is my truth: I literally heard God tell me to turn around and go check on Topping, who was by herself down on Broadway.
As I turned around, for me it felt like I only took three steps, and then the music stopped, and as I’m walking back toward Topping now, I just see orange, and then I hear a loud boom. And as I’m stumbling, [because] it rocked me that hard, I start stumbling, I just tell myself, “Just stay on your feet, stay alive,” and I just take [off] in a full-out sprint and I’m running toward Topping to make sure she’s okay. We kind of meet in the middle, and we just grab each other, check each other …
Topping added, “I don’t know how I kept my footing, but I kind of blanked, [and] I couldn’t see him for a second, and I just lost it, and I just took off in a sprint towards him. … I’ve never grabbed somebody so hard in my life.”
Wells concluded, “I’m a spiritual person, and so I truly believe that when I do this job, I’m led by that voice, how I treat people, how I go about doing this job every day, that’s what guides me. And I truly believe that that’s what guided me in that sense because I was literally getting ready to walk back toward that RV, and you watch the video, you can see that moment of clarity for me when I heard God say, ‘Go and check on Topping.’”
Police Chief John Drake said of the six officers — Wells, Luellen, Topping, Hosey, Michael Sipos, and Timothy Miller: “They immediately began knocking on doors, not knowing if the bomb was going to go off immediately. They didn’t care about themselves, they didn’t think about that, they cared about the citizens of Nashville,” WCSC reported.