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Texas paramedic to plead not guilty to pipe bomb charge

By Lisa Maria Garza

WACO, Texas (Reuters) - A Texas paramedic who responded to a fertilizer plant explosion last month will plead not guilty to possessing pipe bomb components, after agreeing on Wednesday to defer his detention hearing, federal prosecutors said.

A hearing for Bryce Reed that was scheduled for Wednesday afternoon in Waco has been canceled, Daryl Fields, a public affairs officer for the U.S. Attorney's Office in the Western District of Texas, said in a statement.

Reed, 31, faces one count of unlawfully possessing an unregistered destructive device. He was indicted by a federal grand jury in Waco on Tuesday, Fields said.

Texas officials have said no evidence linked Reed's arrest to the plant disaster.

Lawyers for the prosecution and defense agreed on Wednesday morning that Reed would defer his right to a detention hearing, waive his arraignment, enter a not guilty plea and remain in federal custody, Fields said.

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 on Saturday.

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 faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted.

Investigators are expected to announce on Thursday the results of a probe into what caused the explosion, a state agency said on Tuesday.

The State Fire Marshal's Office and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives will release the findings of their joint investigation at a news conference, according to a news release from the fire marshal's office.

(Reporting by Lisa Maria Garza; Editing by Corrie MacLaggan, Bob Burgdorfer, Gary Hill)

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