Lawyer: Texas paramedic denies explosives charge

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Associated Press

Posted on May 11, 2013 at 1:07 PM

WEST, Texas (AP) — A Texas paramedic arrested on charges of possessing bomb-making material will plead not guilty and had no connection to a fertilizer plant explosion that killed 14 people last month, his defense attorney said Saturday.

Authorities arrested Bryce Reed on Friday but stressed that he has not been linked to the April 17 blast.

In a prepared statement, his attorney, Jonathan Sibley, said Reed "had no involvement whatsoever in the explosion" and will plead not guilty to the explosives charge Wednesday. The statement said Reed is "heartbroken" about the explosion, in which he lost friends, and wants to continue to help his community rebuild.

Reed allegedly gave the materials, including chemical powders, to a man on April 26, and that man called authorities, according to court documents. Authorities won't say if Reed is suspected of having the bomb-making materials at the time of the blast, or if such materials may have contributed to the explosion.

Reed was a first responder, but two days after the explosion was "let go" from West Emergency Medical Services for unknown reasons, according to an email obtained by The Associated Press sent by a regional EMS organization, the Heart of Texas Regional Advisory Council, to the state health officials.

Reed was among the most vocal residents after the fatal explosion, freely talking to reporters while other first responders declined interviews. That continued after his dismissal from West EMS.

Three days after a massive explosion at a Texas fertilizer plant, Bryce Reed climbed onto a coffee table at a local hotel where displaced families picked over donated sweatshirts and pizza. Wearing a navy blue shirt emblazoned with "West EMS," he gathered the crowd close.

"You're safe where you're at," Reed said, describing an anhydrous ammonia leak inside the rubble at the West Fertilizer Co. plant. "If you're not, I'd be dragging you out of here myself."

Officials have largely treated the West explosion as an industrial accident, though investigators are still searching for the cause of a fire that preceded the blast. A criminal investigation into the explosion was launched Friday.

That day in the hotel lobby, applause erupted when Reed stepped down. Yet no one had asked Reed to come, and in a town swarming with federal and state investigators — who had handled all the official briefings and tightly controlled updates — a local volunteer paramedic relaying such information was a stark contrast.

Reed described one of the West firefighters who died in the blast, Cyrus Reed, as his brother though the men weren't related.

"I will avenge this. This will get right. I don't care what it takes," Reed said when talking about what might have caused the blast. "There's one thing about Texas, that Texans understand: People talk about law and order. Well, welcome to Texas. We believe in justice. I'm going to get my justice. Period."

Reed's full-time job was at Children's Medical Center of Dallas, which confirmed Friday he had worked at the hospital as a paramedic since January.

But on the career networking website LinkedIn, what appears to be Reed's personal page suggests an unusual job history. For seven years, Reed purportedly worked as vice president of a production company that managed music artists on tour. From 2000 through 2002, Reed said he was a systems analyst at the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas.

State health records show he became a certified paramedic in 2005. Following Reed's arrest, the Department of State Health Services opened a regulatory investigation into Reed's license and removed him from the roster of the West EMS, spokeswoman Carrie Williams said.

At the Czech Inn the weekend after the explosion, Reed's wife, Brittany, pulled out her phone and played a video she said was taken just days before the blast of the couple's young daughter playing with Cyrus Reed, whom her husband credited for saving his life.

Upon reaching the plant, Bryce Reed said, he saw Cyrus' truck, so he kept on driving because he was confident the firefighter could handle the call. Minutes later, the plant erupted in flames.

When Cyrus' body arrived at a funeral home three days later, Bryce Reed said he stayed there 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."

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Associated Press writers Ramit Plushnick-Masti in Houston, Danny Robbins in Dallas and Angela K. Brown in West, Texas, contributed to this report.

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