|First Responder in Texas Explosion to Plead Not Guilty|
|By COLLEEN CURRY and ALEXIS SHAW (@ashaw109)||May 11, 2013, 1:47 PM|
A first responder who helped treat victims of the fertilizer plant explosion in West, Texas, last month will plead not guilty to the federal charge of possessing an explosive device, his attorney said today.
Paramedic Bryce Reed, who works with the West EMS and served as incident commander during the response to the explosion, appeared in federal court in Waco, Texas, Friday morning for alleged possession of a destructive device.
"Mr. Reed had no involvement whatsoever in the explosion at the West, Texas fertilizer plant," Reed's attorney, Jonathan Sibley said in a statement. "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."
Reed is due back in court on Wednesday. He faces up to 10 years in prison and $250,000 in fines if convicted of the charges against him.
According to the charges filed against Reed, the McLennan County Sheriff's Office was called to a residence in Abbot, Texas, on Tuesday because of a possible destructive device, and arrived to find powders, metals and canisters filled with bomb-making materials.
An official with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms said in an affidavit that officials found a metal pipe, canisters of fuses, a lighter, a digital scale, a plastic spoon, coils of metal and several pounds of chemicals at the residence and determined that they belonged to Reed. The resident of the home said he had unknowingly accepted the materials from Reed on April 26.
Reed later admitted to possessing the materials, the court documents said.
Reed was arrested Thursday and charged Friday with one count of possessing a destructive device. He had his initial appearance in court Friday morning.
The arrest came on the same day that Texas authorities opened a criminal investigation into the April 17 explosion.
Reed was not charged for any crime connected to the plant explosion, which killed 15 individuals and burned much of the property in West, and authorities would not say whether they believed there was any connection between Reed's arrest and the explosion.
The charges against Reed came shortly ahead of an announcement from the Texas Department of Public Safety, which said this morning that it would use a criminal investigation to ensure that the explosion had been "looked at from every angle," according to a statement from TDP director Steven McCraw.
"This disaster has severely impacted the community of West, and we want to ensure that no stone goes unturned and that all the facts related to this incident are uncovered," McCraw said, according to ABC News affiliate WFAA.
McCraw said that the department would not answer any questions or provide any other details about the investigation at this time.
Officials in Texas originally said that the investigation into the explosion would be finished by May 10, according to WFAA. The State Fire Marshal department said that investigators have interviewed "almost 300 people," and followed 160 leads in their initial investigation, according to the report.
The fire marshal has not yet released a cause for the explosion.