Elected officials are seeking a tri-level task force that would include a collaborative effort between the NYPD, state police, and FBI serial-killer profile experts – just like the ones on TV’s “Criminal Minds” – in the wake of recent revelations that the same gun was used to kill a Brooklyn boutique owner on Friday and two other shopkeepers over the summer.
This past Friday, 78-year-old Rahmatollah Vahidipour of Great Neck was fatally shot in the head in his Brooklyn boutique She She, located in Flatbush. The gunman reportedly dragged Vahidipour’s body toward the back of the store and covered it with clothing.
"He was quiet and worked hard," said Leon Nwabueze, who owns the Nanso clothing shop across the street from the victim's store. Richard Vinson, 63, who has lived next door to the boutique for four years, called the victim "a very nice gentleman."
"He was a hardworking man; he'd open the store early in the morning and he'd still be there until 7:30, 8 o'clock in the evening," Vinson said. Nwabueze said Vahidipour closed his store each Saturday to observe the Jewish Sabbath.
Vahidipour’s murder is strikingly similar to the deaths of two other Brooklyn shopkeepers over the summer. On July 6, clothing store owner Mohamed Gebeli was killed inside Valentino Fashion in Bay Ridge. On Aug. 2, Isaac Kadare was found dead at his Amazing 99 Cents Deal shop in Bensonhurst. All of the victims were of Middle Eastern descent.
Police say they don't know the motive behind any of the killings, but all three victims were shot and killed with the same gun. In addition, their stores are within a 5-mile radius, and none of them have surveillance cameras.
No one has been arrested in the three shootings. As of press time, police were trying to identify “John Doe Duffel Bag,” a tall, balding man with a mustache who was seen on surveillance video carrying a black duffel back near the site of the most recent shooting. Several other suspects are also being sought, police said.
This past Sunday, New York lawmakers and Middle Eastern Community leaders challenged the New York City Police Department to intensify their search for the killer. New York State Senators Eric Adams and Kevin Parker, Councilman Jumaane Williams and community leaders responded to the store workers’ murders.
The elected officials called on the NYPD to implement an initiative to alert neighborhood employees that fit the description of the men who have been targeted in these cases.
Council Speaker Christine Quinn reacted to the news of the recent killing. “I’m deeply disturbed by these senseless acts of violence and my thoughts and prayers are with the family of the victims and with the people of Brooklyn, who are rightfully concerned for the safety of their community,” said Quinn.
Quinn also applauded the “NYPD for taking these crimes seriously and for adding the Hate Crimes Task Force, as well as the FBI, to the investigation.”
Despite the apparent links in all three killings, Brooklyn District Attorney Charles J. Hynes stressed that the murders are not connected. “The case has been given the highest priority,” he said at a recent press conference. “There is nothing about the victims that would suggest anything other than that they were victims of a random execution.”
Rewards of $40,000 in each of the homicides are being offered for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible.