NYPD hunting gunman in 3 store shootings
The NYPD is searching the city for a man they suspect is targeting Brooklyn mom-and-pop stores as owners, particularly ones of Middle Eastern descent, grow more fearful with the gunman on the loose.
Other than the shooter using .22 caliber bullets in all three shootings, including Friday night's killing of Vahidipour Rahmatollah, 78, of Great Neck at his Flatbush clothing store She-She, police haven't revealed any other clues.
Nearby business owners have been on edge, calling officials and keeping a closer eye on who enters their stores.
"I don't know why he was shot but it's troubling," said Skeeadef Strekcane, the manager of a pizzeria next to She-She. "Things happen all the time and you just got to be prepared for it."
The suspect, described only as a male wearing sunglasses, allegedly shot Rahmattolah three times behind the counter, dragged his body out and covered it with clothes.
Police spokesman Paul Browne said the gun used Friday was the same one used in two other homicides on July 6 and Aug. 2.
In the first incident, the gunman allegedly walked into a clothing store at 7718 5th Ave. in Bay Ridge, and shot Mohamed Gebeli, 65, to death. Less than a month later, police say he killed Isaac Kadare at a discount store in Bensonhurst.
It was unknown whether the suspect robbed the victims or burglarized their businesses, but all the victims are of Middle Eastern descent, according to police. Members of that community say they fear the suspect has them in their sights when he commits the crimes.
"It's a very scary thing. I'm Middle Eastern, the whole block is," Flatbush business owner David Elmann told WNBC/4. "We're more on edge today."
The NYPD said they are looking into whether the suspect seeks out Middle Eastern owners and they are "diligently" investigating the crime. Elected officials in the area, however, say the cops need all the help they can get.
Councilman Jumaane Williams, Democratic State Sens. Eric Adams and Kevin Parker rallied Sunday, calling for a city, state and federal level task force that would combine resources to help profile and catch the killer as soon as possible.
"We certainly need additional police on the ground and better policing strategies, but they cannot do it alone," Williams said in a statement.
The NYPD and FBI declined to comment about the proposal.