Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

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November 12, 2013

NYC shooter was dumped from band, police say

NEW YORK — A gunman who killed three Iranian indie rock musicians and injured a fourth person inside a Brooklyn apartment on 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 band mates may have had an argument over money, he added.

Two of Rafie’s victims were brothers and members of the Yellow Dogs, a band that came to the U.S. from Iran three years ago after appearing in a film about the underground music scene there, according to band manager Ali Salehezadeh. The third person killed was a musician but not in the Yellow Dogs band, Salehezadeh said. The person injured was an artist, he said.

It wasn’t immediately clear why Rafie opened fire on members of another band, although musicians in both groups knew each other and some lived in the same building, Salehezadeh said.  

Rafie knew his victims but he hadn’t spoken to them in months because of a “very 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.”

The four victims lived in a row house in East Williamsburg, an industrial neighborhood home to mostly warehouses where artists can rent cheaper space than in trendier parts of the city.

The rampage erupted shortly after midnight when the gunman climbed down from the roof to a third-floor terrace and opened fire through a window, killing 35-year-old Ali Eskandarian.

The shooter then killed brothers Arash Farazmand, 28, in a third-floor bedroom and Soroush Farazmand, 27, in a second-floor bedroom while he was on a bed using his laptop computer, police said.

An unidentified tenant was hit in the arm before Rafie and his former band mate from Free Keys struggled over the gun until the clip fell out, police said. Rafie put the clip back in the rifle, went back to the roof and shot himself in the head.

The gun was found next to the body. Kelly said it had been purchased in upstate New York in 2006 and police were investigating its history.

Two members of the Coast Guard who were staying in a rented room in the apartment weren’t harmed.

The Yellow Dogs played recent gigs in New York at indie rock venues like the Knitting Factory and Brooklyn Bowl. Originally from Tehran, they were the subject of a 2009 film, “No One Knows about Persian Cats,” which told the semi-fictional tale of a band that played illegal rock shows in Tehran.

The band came to the United States to pursue its dream of playing rock music in an open society, Salehezadeh said.

“You can’t be a rock star in Iran,” he said. “It’s against cultural law. You can’t grow there as a band.”

The manager added: “They were great kids who people just loved. They looked cool and they played great music. ... They wanted to be known for their music. Now we’re not going to get to do that.”

The two members who were killed were a guitarist and a drummer who had just received political asylum. The bass player and singer weren’t home at the time of the bloodshed and weren’t harmed.

A friend of the brothers’ family, Golbarg Bashi, described the family as “very progressive, very open-minded.”

Music was the brothers’ life, said another Iranian musician who said he went only by his first name, Pouya, over lingering safety concerns for family still in Iran.

“All they did was play music,” he said. “They loved their lifestyle. They didn’t want anything more than that.”

Salehezadeh spent the morning on the phone speaking to the victims’ relatives, who were stunned by the violence.

“People don’t own guns in Iran,” he said. “We don’t have this problem there. It doesn’t exist.”

———

Associated Press writers Deepti Hajela, Jennifer Peltz and Meghan Barr and researcher Rhonda Shafner contributed to this report.

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