By Paula Ann Solis
Bryce Ashley Reed, the West paramedic who turned from town hero to arrestee after the explosion April 17, has begun his 21-month prison sentence for illegal firearm possession and obstruction of justice.
Reed pleaded guilty in October to both charges after his attorney, Jonathan Sibley, filed for an extension in the plea bargaining deadline with federal prosecutors. Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Walter Smith said Reed must serve 21 months for each charge concurrently. He will also have 3 years of supervised release when his sentence is complete.
During his allocution, which is when the defendant makes a statement to the court after stage hearing and before the sentencing, Reed apologized for constructing and later hiding from authorities explosive devices at his house.
“There’s nothing I can say to repair my life,” Reed said before the judge and court observers when his sentence was announced.
Reed cried as he spoke to the judge and said his actions were a “horrific and terrible mistake.”
Reed was part of the emergency crew that responded during the April 17 West fertilizer plant explosion and he spoke during the firefighter’s memorial service held at the Ferrell Center on April 25, on behalf of his friend and fallen firefighter, Cyrus Reed.
Authorities later learned he distorted facts about what he saw during the blast and hid explosive devices at his home.
West EMS service dismissed Reed days after the explosion, but Reed was never officially considered a suspect in the plant explosion.
Before entering the court, Reed spoke about his regret for his actions and the effect they have had on his hometown, family and reputation.
“I can’t tell you what it’s like to have your face associated with the worst day of your life, and to be blamed for something that you didn’t do,” Reed said. “I lost my job. I lost my town … I lost my wife, and she took my kid. And that was all in a four-day period.”
The cause of the fire that led to the deadly explosion in West was declared “undetermined” in May and three possible causes remain as possibilities: a problem with West Fertilizer’s electrical system, a battery-powered golf cart or criminal activity. The investigation is still open.
West Fertilizer Co., the West plant where the explosion took place, was fined $118,300 by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration for 24 safety violations on Oct. 10.