NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — A gunman who killed three Iranian indie rock musicians and injured a fourth person inside a Brooklyn apartment Monday before killing himself was upset because he had been kicked out of another band last year, police said.
Ali Akbar Mahammadi Rafie killed himself on the roof after struggling with a member of his former band, the Free Keys, police said. Investigators believe a guitar case found on an adjoining roof may have been used to carry the assault rifle used in the attack.
Rafie, 29, “was upset that he wasn’t in the band anymore,” said New York Police Department spokesman John McCarthy. Investigators suspect the shooter and his former Free Keys bandmates may have had an argument over money, he added.
Two of the dead were brothers and founding members of the group the Yellow Dogs, who came to the U.S. from Iran three years ago after appearing in a film about the underground music scene there, according to band manger Ali Salehezadeh.
It wasn’t immediately clear why Rafie opened fire on members of the Yellow Dogs, although musicians in both groups knew each other and some lived in the same building, Salehezadeh said.
The Yellow Dogs’ management identified the victims as Sourosh Farazmand, a guitarist, and Arash Farazmand, a drummer, as well as their friend, fellow musician and author Ali Eskandarian.
Preliminary reports from police that the shooter had been a member of the Yellow Dogs but was kicked out were inaccurate, Salehezadeh said.
Rafie knew the victims but hadn’t spoken to them in months because of a “petty conflict,” Salehezadeh said, declining to give specifics.
“There was a decision not to be around each other,” he said. “They were never that close to begin with. This was nothing. We thought it was all behind us.”
Another person wounded was an artist, Salehezadeh said. The injured 22-year-old man was hospitalized in stable condition, police said.
The violence erupted just after midnight Monday at a three-story building on Maujer Street in East Williamsburg, a block filled with recording and rehearsal studios.
Police said officers responded after receiving a 911 call about shots fired inside the building.
“I heard about, something like four or five muffled (shots). I thought it was fireworks because usually the kids, they be throwing fireworks,” a witness told 1010 WINS’ Steve Sandberg.
“I heard the shots, but I stayed home and didn’t think nothing of it. I thought someone was just shooting at the air or something,” a witness told WCBS 880’s Paul Murnane. “I didn’t think that something like this would happen in this neighborhood.”
Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said the gunman opened fire through a window, then went inside and continued firing.
The first victim was found on the second floor with a gunshot wound to the chest, authorities said. The two other victims were found on the third floor, police said. Both had a gunshot wound to the head, police said.
Rafie was discovered on the roof with a self-inflicted shot to the head, police said.
An assault-style rifle was found next to the body. Kelly said it had been purchased in upstate New York in 2006, and police were investigating its history.
Originally from Tehran, the group had played secret shows in Iran, where rock music is banned and can lead to severe punishment.
They fled to Brooklyn in 2010, where they were thriving among critics and crowds. The group played recent gigs at venues such as the Knitting Factory and Brooklyn Bowl.
“It’s a horrible thing, I can’t believe it,” neighbor Martin Greenman said. “Just saw them Friday. Three nice guys, never had a bad word for anybody, minded their business.”
“They’re really nice guys. We see them every day,” another neighbor said.
The shooting left many area residents shaken.
“Nothing like that ever happens in this neighborhood,” one resident told CBS 2’s Weijia Jiang. “I’m shocked. I’ve lived here my whole life, and I’ve never seen anything like this happen.”
“This neighborhood, we’ve never heard of something like that,” another said. “Generally, this is a nice neighborhood.”
Police said there were two other people in the house during the shooting. The two are members of the U.S. Coast Guard and not affiliated with any of the musicians. They were renting a room for a few days while visiting New York, police said. They survived the shooting by hiding in a bathroom, according to police.
Police said officers didn’t fire their weapons and reports of sniper fire on them are incorrect.
The investigation is ongoing.
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