In the last four months, three Brooklyn merchants of Middle Eastern descent have been killed with the same .22 caliber gun, and the murderer is still at large.
NYPD spokesman Paul Browne said that current evidence in the three murders doesn’t suggest the killings were bias crimes, however, as a precaution police have assigned a detective from the hate crimes task force to the case. All three victims were between 50 and 70 years of age, two of whom were Jewish, one was Muslim.
Money was taken from the first two victims, but not the third according to police. None of the locations had video surveillance.
The killings began in July, when the body of Mohamed Gebeli, 65, was found riddled with bullets in the rear of Valentino Fashion Inc. in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn.
In early August, Isaac Kadare, 59, was found with his throat cut and shot in the head in his Amazing 99 Cent Deal store in Bensonhurst.
Both victims were Egyptian immigrants, though Gebeli was Muslim, while Kadare was Jewish.
On Friday, Rahmatolla Vahidipour, 78, was found underneath a pile of clothes at his Flatbush store, She She Boutique. Vahidipour, a Jewish, Iranian immigrant, had been shot three times in his head and chest.
The killings have left other Brooklyn merchants fearing for their lives.
“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. It’s very scary,” said David Elmann, 24, a Flatbush merchant from Lebanon told the New York Daily News.
“My store has eight in the address. I just have to open my eyes bigger and bigger,” a Brookyln store owner told the New York Post, which reported that the NYPD is looking at whether there's a connection to the number eight in all the murders. “We can’t lock the door. People see the door locked, they walk away.”
Local politicians have requested assistance from the FBI to investigate the killings.
"The FBI is well known for their expertise in putting together a profile of a person who is a serial killer. We want this person caught," State Sen. Eric Adams said at a Sunday press conference.
Police have released a sketch of the suspect, courtesy of eye witnesses in the area at the times of the shootings. Except for shell casings coming from the same .22 caliber handgun, police say they have no other evidence linking the three murders.
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