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Suspect Grabbed In Pot House Explosion That Killed FDNY Rising Star

By Murray Weiss | September 27, 2016 6:00pm
 A piece of the roof flew into the street and fatally struck Captain Michael Fahy, officials said.
A piece of the roof flew into the street and fatally struck Captain Michael Fahy, officials said.
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Sergeant's Benevolent Association and Twitter/@FDNY

THE BRONX — A suspect has been picked up in connection with the fatal blast of a Bronx marijuana grow house that killed FDNY Battalion Chief Michael Fahy, sources told DNAinfo New York.

Sources say the suspect, Julio Salcedo, 34, is believed to be a tenant who rented the second-floor apartment that was turned into a sprawling and deadly hydroponic pot house at at 304 W. 234 St., near Tibbett Avenue.

He was arrested on an outstanding misdemeanor warrant in connection with a missed appearance in traffic court for operating a vehicle without a license on Nov. 23, 2014.

Video captured him running out of the building when firefighters arrived and showed him hanging around outside the building until it exploded and he took off in the chaos and confusion.

The suspect was identified from the video, and picked up late Tuesday afternoon in Cliffside Park, New Jersey, by a Regional Task Force of federal U.S. Marshals and NYPD officers.

Chief Michael Fahy, of the 19th battalion, was in the street overseeing the operation when he was slammed in the head and body with large chunks of the roof from the blast.

About an hour earlier, firefighters were checking a report of a gas leak — believed to be caused by a faulty illegal gas hookup for the pot house — at about 6:22 a.m. when they discovered the second-floor apartment was tightly locked, virtually sealed with plastic and there was a blue, 55-gallon drum filled with fertilizer on the landing and several more in the basement, sources said.

They determined it was likely a hydroponic marijuana growing lab with propane tanks, sources said.

Emergency responders and Con Ed workers shut off the building's main gas feeder line, evacuating the building and others nearby after finding the pot house and the gas odor.

Emergency responders led by Fahy were outside when the building exploded, according to FDNY Commissioner Daniel Nigro.

Investigators believe a large amount of the volatile gas inside the building had suddenly ignited.

Several ESU officers, one a highly skilled emergency technician, tried to save Fahy.

The 17-year veteran, whose father was also an FDNY battalion chief, was pronounced dead at New York-Presbyterian/The Allen Hospital, officials said.

Nine firefighters, six police officers, three Con Edison workers and two civilians were also injured, Nigro said. They were not seriously injured.

Investigators believe those behind the marijuana grow house illegally tapped into the gas line to avoid running up unusually large gas bills that would arouse suspicion.

"It would have tipped off someone that there was something going on there," a source explained.

Investigators with the NYPD's Arson and Explosion Squad along with Bronx detectives were still trying to determine what caused the explosion, said NYPD Commissioner James O'Neill.

The building's owner has another Tibbetts Avenue house, but apparently only rented out the building that blew up, according to sources.

Officials were told no one lived in or stayed in the apartment, even though it was rented, sources said, adding that because the rent was paid on time, the owner had no incentive to check on his tenant.

The NYPD had been investigating a tip about a drug operation on the block since last week, O'Neill said.

Meanwhile, investigators were still trying to track down everyone who lived in the building, he said.