New York police released a security video of a potential suspect in the killings of three Brooklyn shopkeepers, two of whom were Jews.
The video depicts a ‘person of interest’ in the murders, which investigators believe were carried out with the same .22-caliber weapon.
Police have dubbed the man ‘John Doe Duffle Bag.’ The FBI has also joined the probe.
Two of three Brooklyn shop owners gunned down in the last four months were observant Jewish immigrants from the Middle East, and police reportedly think the same killer is responsible for the slayings.
The latest victim of gunman dubbed “the .22 caliber killer” was found dead inside his Flatbush store on Friday evening. Rahmatolla Vahidipour, 78, “a devout Jew from Iran,” was planning to attend the bar mitzvah of one of his nine grandchildren on Saturday, the New York Daily News reported.
The gunman left what has become a calling card: Shell casings that police have matched to two other murders. The killings started July 6, when Mohammed Gebeli, an Egyptian-born Muslim, was slain inside Valentino Fashion, his Bay Ridge store. A second victim was shot to death August 2; Isaac Kadare, the 59-year-old owner of Bensonhurst’s Amazing 99 Cent Deals shop, also hailed from Egypt, but was an observant Jew, the News said.
The homicides have the borough’s shopkeepers on edge. “I hope he’s not targeting owners because they’re Jewish or from the Middle East because that’s becoming personal,” Israeli-born Norman Mann, who owns the Cool Wear clothing store on Flatbush Ave., told the News. “That’s becoming hate. It’s not a normal holdup.”
Fernando Mateo of the Bodega Association of the U.S. told the newspaper his group would send out a sketch of the suspect. “The only members that we would be concerned about are the Middle Easterners,” he said. But Israeli-born shopowner Avi Zikry told the paper “it doesn’t matter if you’re black, white, Mediterranean, it’s a bad thing. I’m just being more aware of the door and make sure the cameras are working” at his store, BPY Collection.
Writing in the News, a forensic psychologist contended the slayings seem “more personal” than a hate crime. “The suspect could be a deranged individual who served in the military overseas and has a genuine hatred toward everyone from that region,” explained Dr. Naftali Berrill. “Or the killer has some sort of beef with these shopowners that we just don’t know about.”