Former West paramedic faces federal charges of possessing bomb components

Posted Saturday, May. 11, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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The attorney for a former West paramedic accused of possessing the components of a pipe bomb said Saturday that his client “vigorously denies” the allegations and that they are unrelated to the fatal explosion at a fertilizer plant that devastated the Central Texas town.

Investigators have not linked the arrest of Bryce A. Reed, 31, to the explosion. But on the same day that Reed was appearing in federal court in Waco, Steven McCraw, director of the Texas Department of Public Safety, directed Texas Rangers to join McLennan County Sheriff Parnell McNamara in a criminal investigation of the blast.

“The citizens of McLennan County and Texas must have confidence that this incident has been looked at from every angle and professionally handled — they deserve nothing less,” McNamara said in prepared statement Friday.

The State Fire Marshal’s Office released a statement Friday that it was also pursuing a criminal probe. About 250 leads have been developed, and more than 400 people have been interviewed, according to the statement.

Reed was one of several paramedics who helped evacuate residents from nearby apartments after the fire erupted on April 17 at West Fertilizer Co. and shortly before the explosion that killed 15 people and injured 200. He has spoken to the media often and said he was devastated by the explosion, which he said killed one of his closest friends, Cyrus Reed.

Bryce Reed gave a eulogy for the firefighter at his funeral. The two are not related.

Bryce Reed’s wife, Brittany Reed, declined to comment early Friday.

“I can’t. No comment, no comment, no comment right now,” she said before hanging up the phone.

Reed’s lawyer, Jonathan Sibley of West, released a statement on the case Saturday.

‘Mr. Reed had no involvement whatsoever in the explosion at the West, Texas, fertilizer plant,” the statement read. “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.”

An email obtained by The Associated Press indicates that Bryce Reed was “let go” by West Emergency Medical Services on April 19. The email was written by an official with a regional EMS group. It says West EMS administrator Tom Marek asked that the Texas Department of State Health Services be notified. The AP obtained a copy of the email under the Texas Public Information Act.

Marek didn’t respond to a phone message left by the AP. No other information about the dismissal was available Friday.

Investigators have not linked Reed’s arrest to the explosion, but they also haven’t ruled it out.

“At this time authorities will not speculate whether the possession of the unregistered destructive device has any connection to the West fertilizer plant explosion on April 17, 2013,” according to Department of Justice press release.

Before Friday officials had largely treated the explosion as an industrial accident, although investigators are still searching for the cause of the fire that preceded the blast. They said they would treat the area as a crime scene until all possibilities were considered.

Authorities have focused on ammonium nitrate, a chemical commonly used as a fertilizer, but that also can be explosive in the right conditions, as the cause of the explosion.

Pipe bomb components found

According to an affidavit signed by Douglas J. Kunze, a special agent with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Fire and Explosives, investigators were called to a residence in nearby Abbott on Tuesday where the components for a “possible destructive device” were found.

The affidavit said Reed had given the components to a friend on April 26, nine days after the devastating explosion.

The affidavit said the components of a destructive device “included a galvanized metal pipe that was 3.5 inches in length by 1.5 inches in diameter.”

The canisters also included two galvanized end caps attached to the pipe with one containing “an unknown amount of hobby fuse, a lighter, a digital scale, plastic spoon, six coils of metal ribbon and several pounds of chemical powders in individual bags,” the complaint said.

The powders included “Potassium Nitrate, Aluminum powder, Red Iron Oxide, Ammonium Perchlorate, Potassium Perchlorate, Sulfur powder, Air Float Charcoal and Eckart 10890 German Dark Aluminum.” An ATF explosive specialist and chemist agreed that it could be “readily assembled into a destructive device,” the affidavit said.

The complaint also said that “Reed admitted to possessing the components of the pipe bomb” to other law enforcement investigators.

If convicted, Reed could face up to 10 years in federal prison and a maximum $250,000 fine.

Reed is jailed without bail, according to a federal criminal complaint. He is expected to stay in federal custody pending a hearing on Wednesday in Waco before U.S. Magistrate Judge Jeffrey C. Manske.

Technical experience

On his LinkedIn profile, Reed said he spent time at the U.S. Biological and Chemical Weapon Depot at Fort McClellan, Ala.

Reed also lists one year from 2010-11 as a technician/regional safety officer for Allied International Emergency LLC., where he said response teams were trained to deal with “Weapons of Mass Destruction Response, Nuclear Event Management, Chemical or Biological Weapons Containment, Large Scale Environmental Loss Mitigation, to DOT/EPA small scale spill cleanup ... .” The company has three offices, including one in Haltom City, but officials didn’t immediately return phone calls seeking comment.

Other experience listed on his profile included president/CEO of “The Silentium Group Inc.” from 2008-2010. The firm is described as “a turnkey solutions provider for many aspects of complex problems” that prided itself on being discreet. “We do not provide a list of services rendered, nor do we provide a client list.”

Before that, he was a “operator/medic” for Total Tactical Operations, 2004-2006.

In his Myspace bio, Reed is described as “one of the few remaining ‘nice guys’ left” in the modern world. It also states he is an only child, a committed Christian, a singer-songwriter of country and Southern rock music who recorded a CD in 2008.

In the bio he wrote: “I don’t do the whole dress up and rhinestones thing. I am a tee shirt and jeans guy and I am just a normal person. I have fought to keep my identity. I have had ‘image consultants’ tell me how to look, dress, and act ... yeah they got fired.”

Reed spoke at memorial

At a memorial service, Reed was part of the videotaped eulogy for Cyrus Reed. They were not related, but Reed was listed as a “brother” in an obituary. A Waco TV station, KWTX, reported that Reed was considered a “brother in arms” to Cyrus Reed.

In his last Facebook post on Wednesday, Reed wrote: “I just wanted to tell everyone thank you for all the prayers and support. I’m going to take a break from Facebook to reflect. I assure you that I’m ok. God bless you all, and please if you heed nothing else I have said, love one another. God bless. Bryce.”

Crystal LeDane, who lives down the street from Reed, said he was a good neighbor who had changed her flat tire and would sometimes give medical advice about her children’s minor injuries.

“I’ve been thinking it’s an accident, and I still believe that until there’s more information,” said LeDane, as neighbors stood outside Reed’s red brick duplex.

In the statement Saturday, Sibley said: “We ask that Mr. Reed's family, friends, and community not rush to judgment. 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.”

Staff writer Bill Miller contributed to this report, which includes material from The Associated Press.

Bill Hanna, 817-390-7698 Twitter: @fwhanna

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