Texas man held on pipe bomb charge denies role in fertilizer blast

DALLAS Sat May 11, 2013 1:50pm EDT

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DALLAS May 11 (Reuters) - A paramedic accused of possessing pipe bomb components will plead not guilty to that charge and denies an involvement in causing the deadly explosion at a Texas fertilizer plant that he was among the first to respond to, his lawyer said on Saturday.

Bryce Reed, 31, appeared in federal court in Waco, Texas, on Friday to face one count of unlawfully possessing an unregistered destructive device.

Authorities said no evidence linked his arrest to the April 17 fertilizer plant disaster that killed 14 people and injured about 200 in the town of West - a point Reed's attorney echoed in his first comments about the charge.

"Let me be very clear, Mr. Reed had no involvement whatsoever in the explosion at the West, Texas fertilizer plant," his attorney, Jonathan Sibley, said in a statement.

"Mr. Reed was one of the first responders and lost friends, family, and neighbors in that disaster," Sibley said. "Mr. Reed is heartbroken for the friends he lost and remains resolute in his desire to assist in the rebuilding of his community."

Reed was a volunteer emergency medical technician who became one of the better-known faces of the tiny Texas town in the aftermath of the blast. He had told Reuters that he helped people evacuate the area when a fire broke out at the plant and went on to assist at the disaster scene after the explosion until he learned a close friend was among the dead.

Federal prosecutors said in court papers released on Friday that authorities had found a section of pipe 3-1/2 inches (9 cm)long and 1-1/2 inches (4 cm) in diameter, end caps, fuses and explosive powder at a home in Abbott, Texas, this month. The resident of that home, whom they did not identify, told police the components came from Reed.

"Mr. Reed vigorously denies those allegations and will be entering a plea of not guilty during his court appearance Wednesday, May 15, 2013," his attorney said.

Sibley asked people not rush to judgment before all the facts of the case were known. Reed is being held without bail ahead of his next court hearing.

"Mr. Reed has been through significant hardship in the wake of the disaster in West and he has responded and served his community with honor and strength," he said. (Additional reporting and writing by Colleen Jenkins; Editing by Mohammad Zargham)

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