West, Texas, Explosion Investigation Becomes Criminal

Bryce Reed arrested

Last month’s explosion at a fertilizer plant in West, Texas, is still under investigation, and has added the possibility of criminal intent.

There is a new person of interest, who may or may not be connected with the explosion itself.

A paramedic by the name of Bryce Reed was at the scene, and is accused of possessing material to make a ‘pipe bomb’.  Reed has pled ‘not guilty’.

Authorities have not said if his arrest is related to the April 17th explosion which killed 14, and injured more than 160.  They have only said that the investigation of what they believed was an accident, has turned into a criminal investigation, and began just hours after Reed’s arrest.  He was charged with unlawfully possessing an unregistered destructive device in a Waco federal court on Friday.

Reed was fired from his job as a first responder on April 19th, for undisclosed reasons.  He is also accused of stealing from a firefighter who perished in the explosion and fire.  He had claimed the man was his brother.  Though they share the same last name, Reed and Cyrus Reed are not related.

Bryce Reed attended his friend’s memorial, and delivered what was described as a “heart-renching”, and sometimes humorous eulogy.

Following is a release of the official position of the authorities as reported by the Morning News:

The State Fire Marshal’s office has not determined – or ruled out – whether the fire was a criminal act or accidental. The agency also has not determined the cause of the fire that preceded the deadly explosion, believed to be fueled largely by ammonium nitrate kept at the plant. Rachel Moreno, a spokeswoman for the fire agency, said Friday she could not comment on Reed’s arrest.

Texas Department of Public Safety Director Steven McCraw and McLennan County Sheriff Parnell McNamara released a joint statement Friday morning about their criminal investigation. Neither mentioned Reed’s arrest. “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.

News 92 FM in Houston reported that Reed had asked an acquaintance to store a box for him.  When the individual looked inside the box, and witnessed what appeared to be a ‘pipe bomb’, he contacted authorities.

After Reed’s arrest, the Department of State Health Services opened a regulatory investigation into his license.  They removed his name from the West EMS roster.  He became a paramedic in 2005.

Crystal Le Dane, who lives down the street, said he was a good neighbor who had changed her flat tire and sometimes gave medical advice about her children’s minor injuries.

“I would say he’s an everyday guy. I never saw a red flag,” she said.

Reed said that when he arrived at the fertilizer plant on April 17th he saw Cyrus’ truck.  He said he thought he was in no danger, so he drove on by.  A few moments later, the plant erupted.

He says he stayed at the funeral home with his friend all night.

“I got to hug him for the last time. He got there at 9 o’clock last night and I was there until 4 in the morning, holding onto my brother,” Reed said at the time. “And telling him I’m sorry for everything that I did.”

James Turnage

Columnist-The Guardian Express

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