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Paramedic who responded to Texas plant blast sentenced for pipe bomb

By Greg Botelho, CNN
updated 10:14 AM EST, Thu December 5, 2013
Bryce Reed was sentenced to 21 months in federal prison for conspiring to make a pipe bomb.
Bryce Reed was sentenced to 21 months in federal prison for conspiring to make a pipe bomb.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Bryce Reed is sentenced to 21 months in federal prison, a prosecutor's office says
  • He had pleaded guilty to conspiring to possess an unregistered destructive device
  • Reed was among the first responders to a deadly blast at a Texas fertilizer plant
  • His lawyers have said the charges are unrelated to that incident, which left 15 dead

(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 -- was sentenced to 21 months in federal prison for conspiring to make a pipe bomb, a prosecutor's office said.

Bryce Reed pleaded guilty earlier this fall to conspiracy to possess an unregistered destructive device and attempted obstruction of justice.

Reed, 31, was sentenced on those charges Wednesday afternoon in Waco, according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Western District of Texas. He will be subject to three years of supervised release after getting out of prison and must pay a $2,000 fine.

Forensic mappers work the crater at the site of a fire and explosion in West, Texas, on April 24, 2013. The West Fertilizer Co. plant in the small Texas town exploded days earlier on April 17, killing 15 people. Forensic mappers work the crater at the site of a fire and explosion in West, Texas, on April 24, 2013. The West Fertilizer Co. plant in the small Texas town exploded days earlier on April 17, killing 15 people.
Texas fertilizer plant explodes
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Photos: Texas fertilizer plant explodes Photos: Texas fertilizer plant explodes

Reed was among the emergency workers who responded to an ammonium nitrate explosion that killed 15 people -- most of them firefighters and paramedics -- and devastated West, a town about 20 miles north of Waco and 75 miles south of Dallas. He was vocal afterward as well, speaking to reporters and at a memorial service at Baylor University for the blast's victims.

In a previous statement, Reed's lawyers stressed that neither the charges nor the resulting plea agreement "have anything to do with the tragic explosion" that damaged dozens of homes, two schools and a nursing home and was so big that seismographs registered it as a small earthquake.

DA sees no link so far between weapons possession and Texas blast

Yet the blast did play a part in his arrest, according to the federal prosecutor.

Reed's home was among those affected by the April 17 explosion, prompting him to stay in a hotel in West. Before that, authorities say, he'd bought pipe bomb components and had them shipped to his house. There, with the help of another person, he built a place for the pipe bomb, storing it "inside two ammunition cans."

On April 26, believing authorities going through explosion-damaged West homes might find the pipe bomb, Reed asked two people to go to his house, "retrieve the ammunition cans and bring them to him, which they did," reports the U.S. attorney's office.

The paramedic then packed the cans and bomb-making materials in a box to give to another man, telling him to "get rid of this." This man took the box and put it in a spare bedroom in his Abbott, Texas, home, finally opening it on May 7, the prosecutor's office said.

"He immediately notified the McLellan County Sheriff's Office, who took possession of the items," the U.S. attorney's office added.

It was then that Reed became a focus of investigators, who saw the materials, including galvanized metal pipe, a fuse, coils of metal ribbon and several bags of chemical powders.

Reed chose to plead guilty, his lawyers said in October, "to accept full responsibility for what he believes is his role in the allegations against him" and to avoid a long 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," the attorneys added.

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