Authorities are still piecing together last night's triple homicide in East Williamsburg that ended with the gunman killing himself of the roof of 318 Maujer Street. "This is a dispute as best we know now over money involving an indie rock band with either one or two names,” NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly told reporters this afternoon.
An NYPD spokesman would not provide the names of the victims or the shooter, citing department policy to first notify immediate family before releasing the information. However, the Times reports that two of the victims who were fatally shot, guitarist Soroush Farazmand, 27, and drummer Arash Farazmand, 28, were brothers and bandmates in The Yellow Dogs, an Iranian band that were recently granted asylum in the United States.
Two other members of the band, bassist Koroush Mirzaei, and singer/rhythm guitarist, Siavash Karampour, weren't at 318 Maujer at the time of the shooting.
According to the Times, Ali Eskandarian, 35, was also killed. Eskandarian performed as a solo artist and with other bands. A fourth victim, named in numerous reports as Sasan Sadeghpourosko, suffered a gunshot wound in his right arm and was treated at Elmhurst Hospital before being released.
Commissioner Kelly said that the alleged gunman, who the WSJ names as Raefe Ahkbar, gained entry to the building through the roof, firing at least one shot from outside through a window, hitting one of the victims. The gunman, who police say used an assault rifle in the killings, then walked down into the building, shooting victims on the second and third floors before walking back up to the roof and killing himself.
Initially many media reports identified the shooter as a vengeful bandmate who was kicked out of The Yellow Dogs for stealing equipment. That doesn't appear to be true, though Kelly said that the gunman may have belonged to a band called the Free Keys. The band's manager told the paper that the bands had been "acquaintances in the past" but a “personal conflict between the guys resulted in the dissolution of their relationship in 2012.”
At around 11:45 this morning a woman on Facebook wrote, "My boyfriend was in that band, he was shot in the head. The killer was never a band member, the news got that wrong."
Alyse Lamb, whose band EULA played a half-dozen shows with The Yellow Dogs over the past two years, said she couldn't recall the band having a spurned, ex-member.
"Whenever we hung out or played music together, they just seemed genuinely grateful to be playing music," Lamb says. "These men fled from some pretty intense hardships in Iran."
The Yellow Dogs' genesis as an underground band in Tehran, practicing and performing in secret while fearing reprisal from the authorities, was documented in the 2009 film No One Knows About Persian Cats as well as a CNN feature from the same year. The band members were granted asylum last year.
Describing them as "very humble, great, warm souls," Lamb described her favorite memory playing with The Yellow Dogs at The Living Bread Deli. "It was pretty late when they went on but it didn't matter. There was endless dancing, moshing, singing, yelling, in a sweaty, crowded, little deli in Bushwick. I remember them saying something to the tune of, 'This is what we love.' "
[UPDATE] Police have confirmed the names of the victims and identified the suspect as 29-year-old Ali Akbar Mohammadi Rafie, of Queens.