DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM/AP) – A former paramedic in the Texas town of West, where a fertilizer plant explosion killed 15 people earlier this year, was sentenced Wednesday to 21 months in prison after pleading guilty in a pipe bomb case that isn’t linked to the blast. Bryce Reed has also been ordered to pay a $2,000 fine for possessing an explosive device.
Reed made himself somewhat of a representative for the town of West shortly after the April 17 blast, speaking on national television and reassuring displaced residents that they were safe. His arrest – on charges of trying to put together chemicals and equipment for a small pipe bomb – confounded those who knew him and raised questions about whether he had anything to do with the explosion.
A federal complaint alleged that after the blast, Reed gave the materials he had collected to a friend, who called authorities after realizing what Reed placed in his possession. Reed would later admit in court documents to searching the Internet last December for “explosives,” ”explosions,” ”explosive ingredients” and “instructions for making explosives.”
Ultimately, Reed was never charged with any responsibility for the fertilizer explosion, which blew out windows and caved in walls of homes several blocks away.
His arrest came as the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the Texas Fire Marshal’s Office were nearing a dead end in their effort to identify the blast’s cause. The same day he was arrested, the Texas Rangers and the local county sheriff announced they would begin their own criminal investigation.
Neither effort has led to any charges being filed.
It also later came out that Reed had misled people about what he saw the night of the blast and how close he was with one of the first responders who died. Reed was also dismissed by West’s EMS service a few days after the explosion.
State and federal authorities in May officially declared the cause of the fire as “undetermined,” listing three possible causes: a problem with one of West Fertilizer’s electrical systems, a battery-powered golf cart or a criminal act.
During the sentencing, Reed cried as he read a statement to the judge asking for forgiveness. As he walked into the courtroom, he told CBS 11’s Jack Fink that he never meant to hurt anyone.
Reed’s attorney, Jonathan Sibley, has repeatedly called on federal authorities to clear Reed and said Reed never intended to hurt anyone.
“If there was anything out there that anybody had linking Bryce Reed to the West Fertilizer plant … we would have seen something about that,” Sibley said in an October interview. He did not return several messages this week.
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(© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)
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