The killings of three Middle Eastern store owners with the same .22-caliber pistol over the last few months have spooked the community and NYPD enough to bring in both a hate-crime detective and the FBI to assist in the investigation, according to the Post and the Daily News. Most recently, 78-year-old Vahidipour Rahmatollah was found shot dead in his Brooklyn clothing store on Friday, in a crime that matches the deaths of two other Brooklyn shopkeepers over the summer. While the Post is quick to pin the crimes on a “suspected serial killer,” the Daily News insisted the “8” in each of the store’s addresses does not mean the killer has a numerological obsession. “There is nothing to indicate anything beyond coincidence in the numbers,” said a police source, although that’s hardly comforting.
“I’m scared for my own store. I think that because I’m Middle Eastern, someone is going to come in and put a bullet in my head,” said one shopkeeper. “It’s very scary.”
“The guy is still out there. I don’t want no problems,” another added. “I haven’t slept since this happened.”
Of the three men killed, two were Jewish, including Vahidipour, an Iranian, and Isaac Kadare, who was from Egypt. The third victim, Mohammed Gebeli, was an Egyptian Muslim.
Police have released security footage showing four people in the vicinity of Friday’s murder who are not considered suspects but are wanted for questioning. Investigators have also released a sketch of a five-foot-five black male described as a “person of interest,” who was seen talking on the phone about killing someone near Vahidipour’s store before the murder.
An expert on serial killers has not been assigned to the case, a source told the Post, but added, “It’s still very early in the FBI’s involvement.”
Update: The Daily News reports, “The NYPD has narrowed its focus to a single person of interest in the serial slayings of three Middle Eastern shop owners — and has called in the FBI to draw up a profile of the suspect.” The mustachioed man in question is being referred to as “John Doe Duffel Bag,” and was spotted on surveillance tape near the scene of Vahidipour’s murder.