THE BRONX - The lead suspect connected to a Bronx house explosion that killed a 17-year FDNY veteran pleaded not guilty Wednesday to three charges in connection with the blast.

Julio Salcedo-Contrer pleaded not guilty to first- and second-degree assault and criminal possession of marijuana.

The incident killed Deputy Chief Michael Fahy, who was responding to a reported gas leak at the home.

A defense attorney told the court that his client had no connection to Fahy's death.

When investigators took a closer look at the house after the explosion, they say they discovered a marijuana-growing operation inside. Authorities claim the operation had something to do with the blast.

Salcedo-Contrer's defense lawyer says the two incidents are not connected.

"My client was not involved in the grow operation, so there's no connection," attorney Dawn Florio says.

Prosecutors are arguing that his client's recklessness during the commission of a felony make the assault charges possible.

"He needed to be committing a felony -- he was not committing a felony," Florio says. "So those charges will not be able to stick."

Florio also asked the court to set bail for Salcedo-Contrer. Prosecutors say they may bring homicide charges as well.