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Paramedic at Texas fertilizer plant blast site arrested

| Friday, May 10, 2013, 7:12 p.m.
Bryce Reed, center, attends a memorial service for his friend, Cyrus Reed, and other victims of the fertilizer plant explosion in West, Texas, on April 25. (Photo: Eric Gay, AP)

WACO, Texas — State law enforcement officials on Friday started a criminal investigation into the giant fertilizer plant explosion that killed 14 people last month.

Texas officials initially considered the blast an industrial accident.

The announcement was made the same day that federal agents said they found bomb-making materials belonging to a paramedic who evacuated residents on the night of the explosion.

Bryce Reed was arrested early Friday on a charge of possessing a destructive device. Law enforcement officials, though, said they have not linked the charge to the April 17 fire and blast at West Fertilizer Co.

“It is important to emphasize that at this point, no evidence has been uncovered to indicate any connection to the events surrounding the fire and subsequent explosion ... and the arrest of Bryce Reed by the ATF,” the McLennan County Sheriff's Office said.

Texas Department of Public Safety said earlier Friday that the agency instructed the Texas Rangers and the sheriff's department to conduct a criminal probe into the explosion. The agencies will join the state Fire Marshal's Office and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; the ATF has been leading the probe and has not ruled out that a crime may have been committed.

“This disaster has severely impacted the community of West, and we want to ensure that no stone goes unturned and that all the facts related to this incident are uncovered,” said Steven McCraw, director of the Texas Department of Public Safety,

McLennan County Sheriff Parnell McNamara said residents “must have confidence that this incident has been looked at from every angle and professionally handled — they deserve nothing less.”

The statement did not detail any further reasons for the investigation.

Reed, meanwhile, is in federal custody. A criminal complaint unsealed Friday said he was arrested after McLennan County deputies were called earlier this week to a home in Abbott, a town about five miles from West, and found bomb-making materials — including a galvanized metal pipe, canisters filled with fuses, a lighter, a digital scale and a variety of chemical powders.

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