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Texas paramedic expected to plead not guilty to pipe bomb charge

The site of a fertilizer plant explosion in West, Texas is pictured from the air as U.S. President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obam
The site of a fertilizer plant explosion in West, Texas is pictured from the air as U.S. President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obam

By Lisa Maria Garza

DALLAS (Reuters) - A Texas paramedic, who responded to a fertilizer plant explosion last month, is expected to plead not guilty in federal court on Wednesday to possessing pipe bomb components, his lawyer said.

Bryce Reed, 31, faces one count of unlawfully possessing an unregistered destructive device. Texas officials have said no evidence linked Reed's arrest to the plant disaster.

Reed was among the first to respond to the April 17 fertilizer plant explosion that killed 14 people and injured about 200 in the town of West. Texas officials on Friday announced a criminal probe into the blast.

Federal prosecutors said in court papers on Friday that authorities had found a section of pipe 3-1/2 inches long and 1-1/2 inches in diameter, end caps, fuses and explosive powder this month at a home in Abbott, Texas, a town near West.

The resident of that home, whom they did not identify, told police the components came from Reed, who was arrested on Thursday.

"Mr. Reed vigorously denies those allegations and will be entering a plea of not guilty during his court appearance," his attorney, Jonathan Sibley, said in a statement.

Reed was a volunteer emergency medical technician but was relieved of his role on April 19, two days after the blast, according to an email sent to the Texas Department of State Health Services on Friday by an administrator for West's emergency medical services.

Reed had no history of complaints or disciplinary action filed against him with the state, said Carrie Williams, a spokeswoman for the health services department. No reason was given in the email for his dismissal.

His attorney asked that the public not rush to judgment before all the facts of the case are known.

"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," Sibley said.

Reed was being held without bail in McLennan County jail ahead of Wednesday's hearing and faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted.

(Editing by Corrie MacLaggan and by Bob Burgdorfer)

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