Paramedic who responded to Texas plant blast pleads guilty

Posted on: 10:45 pm, October 10, 2013, by , updated on: 11:54pm, October 10, 2013

(CNN) — A paramedic who responded to a horrific, deadly fertilizer plant explosion in West, Texas — and who later spoke at a memorial for its victims — pleaded guilty Thursday after accusations he possessed materials to make a pipe bomb.

Bryce Reed pleaded guilty to conspiracy to possess a destructive device and attempted obstruction of justice, according to his lawyer Jonathan Sibley.

In August, McLennan County Criminal District Attorney Abel Reyna said he hadn’t seen “credible evidence” linking Reed’s possession of a prohibited weapon to the April 17 blast at a West Fertilizer Company facility.

A fire led to the ammonium nitrate explosion, which killed 15 people — most of them firefighters and paramedics — and devastated West, a small town about 20 miles north of Waco and 75 miles south of Dallas.

Dozens of homes, two schools and a nursing home suffered significant damage in the blast, which was so big that seismographs registered it as a small earthquake.

Reed was among the emergency workers who responded to the site. He was vocal afterward as well, speaking to reporters and at a memorial service at Baylor University for the blast’s victims.

“There’s no way I would have ever dreamed that this would have happened,” Reed told CNN’s “AC 360.” “I mean, it’s profound and it’s dire, and it hurts like hell.”

Yet Reed himself became a target of authorities after components of a pipe bomb were found at a residence, according to a criminal complaint affidavit.

The officers determined that Reed had given the materials — including galvanized metal pipe, a fuse, coils of metal ribbon and several bags of chemical powders — to that home’s resident.

In a statement, Reed’s lawyers stressed that neither the charge nor the plea agreement “have anything to do with the tragic explosion.”

He chose to plead guilty, they said, “to accept full responsibility for what he believes is his role in the allegations against him” and avoid a drawn-out trial.

“Finally, … Mr. Reed believes that continuing to draw out this process will be a distraction to the most important issue, the losses suffered by the heroes, friends and loved ones in the West community,” his lawyers said.