Julio Salcedo, 34, was arrested yesterday as a “person of interest” in the Bronx, New York, explosion of an illegal marijuana grow house. The explosion took the life of 17-year veteran New York City firefighter Michael Fahy, 44, a father of three children, ages six, eight and 11 .
Here’s what is known so far about Salcedo. This story is developing and will be updated.
1. He Was Seen Fleeing the Bronx Explosion Scene
Firefighters showed up Tuesday morning to investigate an odor of leaking gas at a two-story home in the Kingsbridge neighborhood of the northwest Bronx, at 300 W. 234th St. When they knocked on the door, Salcedo came out and was caught on videos of the incident waiting nervously on the street outside the building, according to a report by the New York news site DNAInfo.
The videos reportedly show Salcedo making tracks in a hurry as the building exploded. Salcedo was a renter in the two-story home that was being used in indoor, hydroponic marijuana farm, police say.
2. He Has A Criminal History, Including Drug Charges
Salcedo’s most recent arrest came in April, on charges that he tried to strangle a girlfriend, according to online state records. But he also has arrests on his rap sheet for narcotics charges and grand larceny. His record contains at least five arrests, according to New York media reports.
3. Police Arrested a Second Man on Wednesday
Later on Wednesday, police arrested Garibaldi Castillo, 32, who will be charged with marijuana possession and possibly other charges, News 12 reported.
“If you want to get our attention, blow up your marijuana grow house,” a top police source told The New York Daily News. “You get the full attention of the NYPD. Doesn’t matter if you go to Indiana or Bali, we’re going to find you.”
In this case, the Regional Fugitive Task Force, which consists of both United States Marshals and New York police detectives, found their man in Cliffside Park, New Jersey, across the Hudson River from The Bronx. Salcedo was picked up there on an outstanding warrant for a petty crime.
The cops nabbed Salcedo at his girlfriend’s apartment in Cliffside Park.
“He had a girl here. They got him quick,” a source close the investigation told the Hackensack Daily Voice. “No incident.”
By Wednesday afternoon, Salcedo was in the custody of the New York Police Department.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms is also investigating the blast, the exact cause of which remains undetermined, along with New York City detectives.
Salcedo was held in Bergen County Jail in New Jersey, awaiting extradition back to New York.
4. Police Knew About the Pot Growing Operation Two Weeks Ago
Investigators continued on Wednesday to search for other members of the drug crew that rented the house and was often seen driving through the middle- and working-class neighborhood in luxury Mercedes-Benz and BMW vehicles, but otherwise kept to themselves, according to The Daily News.
Police had been investigating the marijuana operation for about two weeks, after getting a tip about the activities taking place there.
When firefighters got to the house to check on what they thought was a simple gas leak, they found the second floor apartment not only locked, but sealed with plastic, according to the DNAInfo report. They also found a 55-gallon tank of fertilizer on the landing leading to the apartment.
Investigators still don’t know exactly what caused the deadly explosion that blew the roof clean off of the house and left marijuana plants strewn in the street, but they suspect that it may have had something to do with an illegal gas hookup, designed to conceal the excessive amounts of gas used to power the pot-growing operation.
5. New York City Honored Michael Fahy on Wednesday
Fahy — a fire battalion chief of the New York Fire Department’s Battalion 19, Engine 75, Ladder 33 — was struck by flying debris from the explosion as he and his fellow firefighters waited outside in the street after showing up to deal with the hazardous gas leak. He passed away at New York Presbyterian/The Allen Hospital.
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio saw Fahy’s family at the hospital and described “the unspeakable pain when they were told formally that they lost Michael.”
The mayor ordered that flags fly at half mast in New York City in honor of the fallen fire chief, and his fellow firefighters hung a purple bunting on the firehouse where he worked, in his memory.