Days after a deadly explosion at a Texas fertilizer plant that killed 14 people, a volunteer paramedic gathered displaced families who had taken shelter at a local hotel.
Bryce Reed was wearing a shirt emblazoned with “West EMS” (West Emergency Medical Services) as he told the crowd they were safe and described what he said was going on at the plant. He also spoke at length with news media as other emergency responders shied away.
On Friday, the same day Reed was arrested on charges that authorities stressed had not been linked to the deadly blast, documents showed he had been “let go” from the town’s emergency response squad the day before the hotel speech and just two days after the blast.
Reed, 31, was charged with possessing bomb-making material. His arrest came the same day Texas law enforcement officials announced a criminal investigation into the massive April 17 explosion. Authorities allege Reed possessed canisters that included a lighter, a digital scale, a plastic spoon and “several pounds of chemical powders” in separate bags.
However, investigators said they have not linked Reed, or the federal charge he is facing, to the blast that killed 14 people, including 10 firefighters and paramedics.
Still, his arrest was drawing attention in part because in the days following the blast, Reed did not duck attention in West.
He gave lengthy interviews to reporters, while other emergency responders did not want to talk.
He also described Cyrus Reed, one of the West firefighters who died in the blast, as his brother, though the men were not related.
He said that Cyrus Reed worked at Hunting Titan, which manufactured explosives for oil and gas companies, and would have known the dangers of the ammonium nitrate and anhydrous ammonia inside the West plant.
When talking about what might have caused the blast, Reed fumed.
“I will avenge this. This will get right. I don’t care what it takes. I will get square,” Reed said at the time. “There’s one thing about Texas, that Texans understand: People talk about law and order. Well, welcome to Texas. We believe in justice. I’m going to get my justice. Period.”
On Friday afternoon in West, several of Reed’s neighbors stood outside near his red brick duplex, a neighborhood close to the plant where some homes’ windows remained boarded.
They said they were shocked by his arrest.
Bryce Reed had credited Cyrus Reed for saving his life.
Upon reaching the plant, Bryce Reed said, he saw Cyrus’ truck, so he kept on driving because he was confident the firefighter could handle the call. Minutes later, the plant erupted in a fire ball.
When Cyrus’ body arrived at a funeral home three days later, Bryce Reed said he stayed up all night holding him.
“I got to hug him for the last time. He got there at nine o’clock last night and I was there until four in the morning, holding onto my brother,” Reed said. “And telling him I’m sorry for everything that I did.”