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Paramedic arrested after Texas plant explosion released on bond

Bryce Reed in a booking photo after his arrest May 10.
Bryce Reed in a booking photo after his arrest May 10.McLennan County Sheriff's Office via AP

Bryce Reed, the Texas paramedic who became known as one of the courageous responders to a fertilizer plant explosion that killed 15 people — and then was charged with possessing bomb-making materials — was freed on bond Thursday.

Reed, 31, gave numerous interviews after the explosion April 17 in the small town of West, drawing national attention for his emotional eulogy at the funeral of a colleague who was killed in the blast, which also injured more than 150 other people.

But as a criminal investigation into the explosion was announced, Reed was arrested May 10 and charged with unlawful possession of components for a pipe bomb.

McLennan County District Attorney Abel Reyna said last week that investigators have turned up no evidence linking Reed to the explosion, and federal prosecutors didn't present any at the bond hearing Thursday, NBC station KCEN of Waco reported.

U.S. Magistrate Jeffrey Manske disagreed and set bond at $25,000. Reed was released into the supervised custody of his parents.

"Bryce had nothing to do with [the plant explosion]," Reed's attorney, Jonathan Sibley, said after the hearing. "At this time, we are ready to put that connection to bed because it's not existent."

Reed still faces trial Sept. 23 on the possession charge.

Daniel Jones, an agent for the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, testified Thursday that at the April 26 funeral where Reed eulogized his colleague, Reed's wife made comments that both men "liked to use explosives and blow things up in the backyard."

Reed asked two friends later the same day to remove some items from his home, Jones said. When the friend looked inside the box on May 7, he found two ammunition cans filled with a pipe, chemicals, fuses and other bomb-making materials, Jones said.

ATF agents then put a wire on the friend, who met with Reed, Jones said. During that meeting, Reed was quoted as saying: "Oh, [expletive], did they take everything? Oh, [expletive] ... my prints are all over it."

Acting on a search warrant, agents seized Reed's laptop, on which they found instructions on how to make bombs, Jones said.

Prosecutors argued that Reed was a danger to the community, but Reed's mother, Therese Nelson, testified that he would be under constant supervision. 

She said Reed was dedicated to public service — "it's what he wanted to do, save lives."

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