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Shooting investigation leads to large marijuana grow house in Monessen

| Thursday, July 31, 2014, 4:13 p.m.
Jim Ference | Trib Total Media
Monesen Police Officer James Franks and Lt. Carl Fronzaglio load up marijuana plants from 462 Knox Ave. in Monessen with the help of Monessen city employee Delmar Hepple on Thursday, July 31, 2014. Police were investigating an early morning shooting and obtained a search warrant for the house and discovered the growing operation.

Monessen police investigating a shooting Thursday allegedly came upon a large-scale marijuana-growing operation at 462 Knox Ave.

Police responded to a report of a man shot in the area of Sixth Street and Knox Avenue just before 3 a.m. Thursday. Before police arrived, they received a report that the shooting victim was running away from his attacker.

Officer Patrick Schmidt located Gregg Tchirkow, 35, of 1067 Greentree Road, Pittsburgh, who had a bullet wound to his hand.

Tchirkow told police his brother, Stephen Tchirkow, 32, of 278 Murrays Lane, Pittsburgh, shot him at 462 Knox Ave.

Stephen Tchirkow soon arrived at the scene and told police his brother had assaulted him, according to an affidavit of probable cause.

“One brother is supposedly a drug addict,” police Chief John Mandarino said. “So to keep him from doing drugs, (Stephen Tchirkow) locked him in a bedroom.”

Mandarino said it appears Gregg Tchirkow broke out of the room and a fight ensued.

“At one point, Stephen was on the ground and Gregg grabbed a rifle and was hitting him with it,” Mandarino said.

As the two struggled for the gun, Stephen Tchirkow pulled the trigger and shot Gregg Tchirkow, according to a criminal complaint.

Both men allegedly told police that they lived at the Knox Avenue residence.

Police obtained a search warrant for the residence to investigate the shooting and allegedly found the marijuana operation.

“There was nothing in the house that would lead me to believe that anyone lived in the house,” Mandarino said.

“There were younger plants in the entire basement with an area to dry out the mature plants once harvested. The living room was filled with plants as high as seven feet.”

Mandarino said police confiscated about 150 marijuana plants.

“I'd say at least $300,000,” Mandarino said of the street value of the marijuana. “That's being very conservative.”

Neighbors told police the pair had been in the residence for six months. Gregg Tchirkow purchased the house in November, police learned.

“This was a large-scale operation. There was a lot of money that went into this setup,” the chief said. “They had the hydroponics set up. Everything was on timers, and they had all the chemicals you need.”

Westmoreland County Hazardous Materials Response Team 800 disposed of the chemicals and assisted police in dismantling the operation.

“I'm curious as to how long they've been up there. ... It would take five, six months for the plants to grow to the size we found them,” Mandarino said.

“They'd probably come into town and spend a couple days tending to their plants. No one up there had any idea what was going on.”

Good job

“I commend the police for the job they've done today,” Monessen Mayor Lou Mavrakis said. “It goes to show that we're doing all we can with the manpower we have.

“If anyone has any issues with drugs, they can call here to the police or call me personally at home or at my office. My cell phone number is 724-708-4913.

“We're not going to tolerate the drugs in our city.”

Gregg Tchirkow initially was transported to Monongahela Valley Hospital in Carroll Township.

Mandarino said Gregg Tchirkow subsequently was taken via emergency helicopter to Allegheny General Hospital in Pittsburgh and later transferred to UPMC Presbyterian.

His condition is unknown.

A UPMC spokesman said an information block is placed on anyone involved in a police investigation.

An arrest warrant has been issued for Gregg Tchirkow, who has been charged with aggravated assault.

Stephen Tchirkow was treated for a shoulder injury at Monongahela Valley Hospital.

Charged with aggravated assault, Stephen Tchirkow was arraigned Thursday afternoon in Monessen by Magisterial District Judge Joseph Dalfonso.

He was placed in the Westmoreland County Prison in Hempfield Township in lieu of $50,000 straight cash bond.

Mandarino said drug charges against the pair are likely.

Jeremy Sellew is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at or 724-684-2667.