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Texas blast rescuer arrested, criminal probe opened

L.M. Otero/Pool via AP

Investigators look through the debris of the destroyed fertilizer plant in West, Texas, on May 2.

A volunteer paramedic in West, Texas, has been arrested for possession of an explosive device, but federal law enforcement officials said it’s too soon to say if there’s a connection to the explosion at a fertilizer plant there last month.

Bryce Reed, 31, who had a high profile in the days after the April 17 disaster that is now the subject of a criminal probe, was arrested after a friend discovered he has explosives and notified the local sheriff, authorities said.

The case was transferred to federal court, where Reed appeared Friday.

According to court documents, Reed had gathered components for a pipe bomb. The documents say investigators found that he had a pipe, prepared to be made into a pipe bomb, along with a fuse and explosive powders. The documents say the materials had not been assembled into a working bomb. 

"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 said in a statement.

After the explosion three weeks ago, Reed gave interviews about the response and also eulogized a victim, Cyrus Reed, at a public memorial. The cause of the explosion  -- which killed 14, injured 200 and damaged or destroyed scores of homes and businesses – has not been determined.

One official said investigators have not found any evidence of a bomb. Separately, Texas officials announced Friday that they have joined forces with the McLennan County Sheriff to launch a criminal investigation into the blast.

"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," Texas Department of Public Safety Director Steven McCraw said in a statement.