Criminal Investigation Opened in Texas Fertilizer Plant Blast

What appeared to be a horrible, tragic accident at the time may turn out to have been an act of sabotage -- or terrorism.

Texas authorities have opened a criminal investigation into the blast that rocked West, Texas last month and killed 14 residents. A paramedic who responded to the blast has now been arrested and charged with possessing bomb making materials, according to court documents.

The authorities refuse to connect the arrest of the paramedic, Bryce Reed, to the explosion, but explain that they "want to ensure that no stone goes unturned" in finding the cause of the blast.


Local sheriff's deputies were called on Tuesday to a residence where they found components for a pipe bomb, according to a criminal complaint affidavit.

The officers determined that Reed had given the materials to the resident of that home last month.

Among the materials found were a galvanized metal pipe, a fuse, coils of metal ribbon and several bags of chemical powders, the affidavit states.

Reed, who was arrested early Friday, is charged with possession of a destructive device.

"At this time authorities will not speculate whether the possession of the unregistered destructive device has any connection to the West fertilizer plant explosion," the U.S. attorney's office for the Western District of Texas said in a release.

If convicted, Reed would face up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Reed spoke last month at a memorial for the victims at Baylor University.

The arrest details came as authorities said they conducting a thorough criminal investigation into the April 17 fire and explosion that killed 14 in the small town of West.

"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," DPS Director Steven McCraw said.

On Monday, the state fire marshal's office said it ruled out four potential causes: weather, natural causes, anhydrous ammonium, and ammonium nitrate in a rail car.

No doubt authorities will look at Mr. Reed very closely to determine if he had motive and opportunity to set the fire. Depending on the chemical makeup of the bomb in Mr. Reed's possession, it may well have been designed to start a fire rather than blow anything up. Of course, even if that's the case, there is no evidence that Reed was involved in setting the blast.