Investigators are still eager to interview the man seen in a surveillance video walking near the scene of the murder of a South Brooklyn store owner early Friday evening. It's believed that the killer may be responsible for the murder of two other merchants in the vicinity over the summer. However, the individual in the video, whom the police have dubbed "John Doe Duffle Bag," is not officially a suspect, and today NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly contradicted a report that Duffle Bag man had also been spotted on surveillance footage near the scene of one of the other murders.

Police sources told the Post yesterday that Duffle Bag man appears to have been caught on surveillance video near a Bensonhurst shop around the time its owner was killed. But Kelly said today, "No, that is not the case." A reporter than informed the commissioner that there was a report saying otherwise, and Kelly replied, "I don't know if there was a report, I know the media had been talking about it, but that is not the case."

Friday's victim, 78-year-old Vahidipour Rahmatollah, was shot three times, Kelly said today. The Commissioner also declined to officially describe the murderer as a serial killer, but the NYPD has confirmed that shell casings in each killing appear to be from the same gun. There are other connections as well:

  • All three victims were of Middle Eastern descent.
  • All the murders took place within four miles of each other.
  • Each store owner was alone when he was killed, and was getting ready to close up for the night.
  • None of the stores had interior surveillance cameras, which suggests that the murderer "did his (or her) homework."
  • All the victims' bodies were partially concealed by clothes or boxes to make the corpses unnoticeable to passers-by.
  • However, the killer or killers left the shell casings behind for investigators to piece together the connection.
  • Robbery did not appear to be a primary motive in the crimes; Rahmatollah still had $171 in his pockets when his body was found.

Kelly told reporters this morning that there were no new leads in the case, but "the investigation is continuing aggressively." In the meantime, Kelly said, "We have a robust community affairs operation, and they're telling shop owners to be vigilant, be aware." Oh, and the man pictured wearing sunglasses in an initial surveillance sketch released by the NYPD has been cleared after an interview with investigators.

Reporting by Chris Robbins.