HOUSTON — A paramedic arrested for possessing bomb-making materials after he responded to the massive fertilizer plant fire in West, Texas, has denied any connection between the fire and the charges he faces.
Bryce Reed, 31, released a statement through his attorney Saturday saying he “vigorously denies” charges filed against him Friday. He is accused of passing bomb-making materials to a resident in nearby Abbott, Texas, where they were discovered by the West bomb squad on Tuesday, according to a criminal complaint filed by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives officials who arrested him.
The complaint detailed the materials found, including a 3.5-inch length of galvanized metal pipe with two galvanized end caps attached, one of which had a [-inch hole drilled in it. There were also canisters containing hobby fuse, a lighter, a digital scale, a plastic spoon and six coils of metal ribbon.
There were also several pounds of chemical powders in individual bags, including potassium nitrate, potassium perchlorate, aluminum powder, red iron oxide, ammonium perchlorate, sulfur powder, air float charcoal and Eckart 10890 German dark aluminum. An ATF chemist and explosives expert confirmed the material could be used to make a bomb.
According to the complaint, Reed “admitted to possessing the components of the pipe bomb.” But his attorney told the Los Angeles Times they were still investigating the information detailed in the complaint and that Reed “disputes the allegations.”
Reed did not enter a plea when he appeared in Waco federal court on Friday via video conference, and said Saturday he planned to plead not guilty.
“At this point in time, we have not been able to obtain specific information about the extent of the allegations, but Mr. Reed anxiously awaits his day in court and his opportunity to address these allegations,” said the statement released to The Times by Reed’s Waco-based attorney, Jonathan Sibley.
The Texas Fire Marshal’s office is still investigating what caused the April 17 fire and explosion, which killed 14 and injured more than 160 in the town of 2,800, about 76 miles south of Dallas.
On Friday, McLennan County Sheriff’s officials and the Texas Department of Public Safety announced that they had opened a criminal investigation into the explosion.
Officials would not say whether they had linked Reed to the blast.
In his Saturday statement, Reed denied causing the explosion.
“Mr. Reed had no involvement whatsoever in the explosion at the West, Texas, fertilizer plant. Mr. Reed was one of the first responders and lost friends, family, and neighbors in that disaster. Mr. Reed is heartbroken for the friends he lost and remains resolute in his desire to assist in the rebuilding of his community,” the statement said.
Reed had become a visible figure in West after the disaster, speaking to the media, including The Times, about losing a close friend: firefighter Cyrus Reed, 29, of Abbott, whom he also spoke about at a memorial last month. The paramedic appeared to face criticism and responded on his Facebook page by saying he was not trying to profit from the disaster.
“We ask that Mr. Reed’s family, friends, and community not rush to judgment,” the Saturday statement said. “Mr. Reed has been through significant hardship in the wake of the disaster in West and he has responded and served his community with honor and strength.”
Reed remained at McLennan County Jail without bond Saturday pending a hearing at 2 p.m. Wednesday in Waco, Sibley said. If convicted, Reed could face up to a decade in federal prison and a maximum $250,000 fine.