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West, Texas, man charged with destructive device to plead not guilty

Investigators have launched a criminal probe into the cause of the deadly fertilizer plant explosion in West, Tex.

A volunteer paramedic in the Texas town rocked by a massive fertilizer plant explosion in April will plead not guilty to charges that he possessed an explosive device, his lawyer said Saturday.


This photo provided by the McLennan County Sheriff's office shows Bryce Reed in a booking photo on Friday, May 10, 2013.

Bryce Reed, 31, is due to appear in court on Wednesday. He was arrested after a friend told a local sheriff that Reed possessed explosives, authorities said.  Reed had gathered pieces for a pipe bomb, according to court documents, but had not assembled the parts into a working explosive.

Reed had “no involvement whatsoever in the explosion at the West, Texas, fertilizer plant,” the man’s attorney said in the statement. “Mr. Reed was one of the first responders and lost friends, family, and neighbors in that disaster. Mr. Reed is heartbroken for the friends he lost and remains resolute in his desire to assist in the rebuilding of his community.”

The massive fertilizer plant blast on April 17 killed 14 people and injured 200 more, damaging dozens of local businesses and flattening homes closest to the plant. One official said that no evidence of a bomb has been found in connection with the blast.

Authorities announced Friday they had launched a criminal investigation into the blast, but the U.S. attorney’s office said in a statement it would “not speculate whether the possession of the unregistered destructive device has any connection to the West fertilizer plant explosion.”

Reed took on a significant profile in the aftermath of the disaster in the small town, giving interviews and delivering the eulogy for victim Cyrus Reed. “I will avenge this. This will get right. I don’t care what it takes. I will get square,” Reed said in an interview at the time.

The man’s attorney denied allegations that Reed possessed a destructive device and said Reed looked forward to his day in court.

“We ask that Mr. Reed’s family, friends and community not rush to judgment,” the attorney said in the statement. “Mr. Reed has been through significant hardship in the wake of the disaster in West and he has been responded and served his community with honor and strength.”

NBC News' Pete Williams and Tracy Connor contributed to this report.