WASHINGTON – Federal authorities on Friday charged a Texas man with illegal possession of bomb making materials, but would not say whether the arrest is linked to a probe into last month’s deadly explosion at a fertilizer plant.
The US Justice Department said in a statement that Bryce Ashley Reed, 31, was arrested late Thursday and arraigned at a hearing Friday in Waco, Texas.
The Justice Department said Reed will remain in federal custody pending a hearing in Waco on May 15, 2013.
In an earlier statement on Friday, officials in Texas announced that they have launched a criminal probe in the explosion, which claimed 14 lives in the town of West, Texas and injured some 200 people.
But Justice Department officials said they “will not speculate whether the possession of the unregistered destructive device has any connection to the West fertilizer plant explosion on April 17, 2013.”
Officials in Texas meanwhile, would not be drawn as to whether they possess any new information causing them to suspect foul play.
“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,” said Steven McCraw, director of Texas Department of Public Safety, in a statement.
Federal officials said the investigation is being carried out by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, along with various state and local authorities.
The huge blast three weeks ago leveled a large swath of West, with several first responders among the dead.
Around 200 people were injured in the blast, which decimated the small town of 2,800 people, located 80 miles (130 kilometers) south of Dallas.
Homes near the blast site were flattened, a huge apartment complex was destroyed and a nursing home and several schools were also badly damaged by fire that spread from building to building following the explosion.