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In surprising developments today, as yet unconnected by officials, Texas officials announced that they had opened a criminal investigation into the April 17 explosion that killed 14 people and injured about 200 others, after weeks of largely treating the blast as an industrial accident.

This came after an announcement of the arrest of a former emergency volunteer who helped in the response to last month's deadly fertilizer plant explosion in West, Texas by McLennan County Sheriff's Department on a charge of possession of a destructive device and later turned over to ATF.

Bryce Reed, who told The Dallas Morning News that he assumed radio command of the April 17 incident after the explosion killed his superiors and colleagues, was accused Friday of giving an “assortment of bomb making components” to an unnamed person in nearby Abbott on April 26, nine days after the explosion.

Hours after his arrest, the Texas Rangers and McLennan County Sheriff’s office launched a criminal investigation into the plant explosion but did not say what role, if any, the federal charges against Reed played in their decision.

As the confusing and troubling news was unfolding, speculation rose although
Authorities aren't saying whether the arrest is connected to the explosion, but they're not saying that it's not, either, something that has everyone on edge, unfairly or not. Making things that much more troubling is the fact that the Texas Rangers and the local sheriff's office launched a criminal investigation into the plant explosion Friday morning, only hours after Reed was arrested.

In the days after the April blast, Reed spoke to a number of media outlets about the explosion and his role in the response. The day after the disaster, he was featured prominently in this Los Angeles Times story, in which he described his role as incident commander in the response effort. At last month's public memorial for a dozen of those killed by the blast, Reed "gave a heartfelt and often times humorous eulogy for his close friend," in the words of the Morning News.

According to News 92 FM in Houston, Reed is said to have asked an acquaintance to store a box for him sometime after the explosion. That person later found what appeared to be a pipe bomb in the container, and then contacted police.

This afternoon The Waco Tribune reported that Bryce Ashley Reed, who was the paramedic arrested late Thursday and accused of possessing components to make a pipe bomb, is formally charged with possessing an unregistered destructive device.

According to a sworn affidavit signed by an ATF special agent, McLennan County sheriff’s deputies were called to an undisclosed residence in Abbott on Tuesday, where they discovered components that experts say could be used to make a pipe bomb, including a 3.5-by-1.5-inch galvanized pipe, and canisters containing a hobby fuse, a lighter, digital scale, plastic spoon and six coils of ribbon. Agents also found several pounds of bagged chemical powders, including potassium nitrate, aluminum powder, red iron oxide, ammonium perchlorate, potassium perchlorate, sulfur powder, air float charcoal and Eckart 10890 German Dark Aluminum, state the court documents.

An investigation determined that the unnamed resident at the home “had unwittingly taken possession of the components from Reed” on April 26. Reed has admitted to possessing the components of a pipe bomb to law enforcement officials, according to the affidavit.

Reed is in federal custody, and scheduled for a detention hearing Wednesday.

 

Although the timing of the arrest and the change to criminal investigation has raised speculation, authorities have stayed mum. Federal authorities said in a news release Friday afternoon that they “will not speculate” on whether the discovery of components to make a pipe bomb has any connection with the April 17 West fertilizer plant explosion.

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