HACKENSACK, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) — A suspect in a Bronx house explosion that killed an FDNY battalion chief was appearing before a judge in New York on Friday evening after waiving extradition from New Jersey.
Julio Salcedo Contrer appeared in court in Hackensack on Thursday and in New York on Friday evening. The 34-year-old was arrested in Cliffside Park, New Jersey, on a fugitive warrant Tuesday. He was wanted for questioning in the blast that killed Chief Michael Fahy.
Authorities are looking into whether the building in the Bronx was used to grow marijuana.
A second suspect, Garivaldi Castillo, of Manhattan, has been arrested on criminal possession of marijuana charges. His lawyer has questioned the evidence linking him to the house.
Fahy was struck and killed by flying debris Tuesday morning while he and several fire units were responding to calls of a gas odor at a house. He was on the scene for about an hour directing operations from the street when the two-story home exploded.
Authorities are investigating to see if utility lines had been tampered with or if a rigged-up propane tank led to the blast.
Contrer was seen at the house when firefighters responded to the report of the gas odor, authorities said. He disappeared in the chaos of the blast, officials said, before being picked up in New Jersey.
As Contrer was escorted out of the 50th Precinct station house in the Kingsbridge section of the Bronx on Friday, he was greeted by the cold stares of angry firefighters. The suspect was expressionless and silent when CBS2’s Sonia Rincon asked him, “How do you feel about what happened?”
On Wednesday night, firefighters also stared down Castillo.
Both suspects could face additional charges depending on what the investigation uncovers.
Police have found a lot already.
“We have a lot of botanical substances that would aid in a grow house,” NYPD Chief of Detectives Robert Boyce said. “We have gas piping and meters. We have grow pots. We have sealants that covered up the second-floor apartment.”
But whether or not an illegal gas hookup was to blame for the blast is still something Boyce said investigators literally need to dig up.
“So actually we have to excavate the street as well,” Boyce said. “We got to take the piping from the street. We have a lot of work to do in the next four days.”
On Thursday, Mayor Bill de Blasio and FDNY Chief Daniel Nigro announced that Fahy was posthumously promoted to deputy chief. Fahy passed his deputy chief exam in 2013 and was on the list for promotion to that title.
His funeral will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday at Annunciation Church in Yonkers.
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