DALLAS (CBS 11 NEWS) – An emotional Bryce Reed walked into federal court Wednesday surrounded by his family and friends. The former paramedic from West came to hear his punishment after pleading guilty to possessing a pipe bomb, and trying to hide it along with other components.
Authorities arrested Reed several weeks after the fire and explosion at the West Fertilizer Plant last April, but he was never charged in connection with the blast.
Reed said, “I love my community and there’s nothing that I would do to hurt them.”
In court, Reed broke down and cried. He threw himself on the mercy of the court and asked the judge for leniency.
Reed said he had only intended to make homemade fireworks. But he said instead, the situation created confusion for his family, friends, and the entire community.
Reed told the judge he made a horrific mistake. His attorney, Jonathan Sibley said, “I just think this is a case where a couple of guys who live out in the country had no idea what they were getting into.”
Reed was among those who addressed mourners during the public memorial attended by President Barack Obama and the First Lady, Michelle Obama. But Reed’s attorney said the investigation into his client began after remarks made during a private memorial in which a colleague mentioned Reed liked to make homemade fireworks.
Federal prosecutors said Reed’s home was damaged in the blast, and he was staying in a motel at the time.
Prosecutors alleged Reed was concerned investigators would discover the bomb making ingredients in his home and charge him. According to the government, Reed asked two other people to remove the components from his house, so he could put them in a box and give it to someone else with the instructions “to get rid of this.”
In the end, Judge Walter Smith gave Reed a reduced sentence of 21 months in prison and $2,000 fine. No word yet when Reed will have to turn himself in at a federal prison, where he will serve his sentence.
Asked for his response after court, Reed replied, “It’s not my place to judge.”
It has been a tough year for Reed. He told the judge his wife left him and has custody of their daughter. Reed also recounted the night of the fire and explosion at the fertilizer plant. He helped evacuate residents before and after the blast.
But Reed sobbed openly, saying he left behind his 12 fellow volunteer firefighters and paramedics who were killed by the blast and fire. Instead of retrieving their bodies, Reed said he sat on a tailgate of a truck and cried for fear he’d also be killed during another explosion at the plant and for fear what he’d see at the scene.
Reed told the judge he could never again return to West for fear it would stir up sad memories for the community. Despite everything he said he “Absolutely. Absolutely,” still considers West home.”
When asked if his heart is still with the city, Reed choked back tears and said, “It always has been.”
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