Brooklyn Shopkeeper Killer Update: Man in custody in connection with 3 NYC deaths with same gun, official says

Surveillance video shows what NYPD says is a person of interest in connection to the serial slayings of three Brooklyn shopkeepers
New York Police Department
Surveillance video shows the individual who NYPD is calling a person of interest in the murder of a Brooklyn store owner, Friday night, Nov. 16, 2012
New York Police Department

(CBS/AP) NEW YORK - Police recovered a sawed-off rifle on Wednesday they believe was used in the shooting deaths of three businessmen of Middle Eastern descent, and a person was in custody, a law enforcement official said.

An official speaking to The Associated Press under condition of anonymity said the Ruger 10-22 rifle had a makeshift light attached to its barrel and was found inside a duffel bag. Surveillance footage shows the bag belonging to a balding, middle-aged man who was seen moments after the most recent killing on Friday in Brooklyn, the official said. The rifle uses the same .22-caliber ammunition that has been found at all three crime scenes.

Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said earlier this week that authorities had not ruled out a possible serial killer. A motive remained unclear.

Rahmatollah Vahidipour, 78, was shot three times in the head and chest Friday afternoon at his Brooklyn store, the She She Boutique. Detectives discovered that the same gun used in Vahidipour's slaying was also involved in the fatal shootings of two other shopkeepers.

Ballistics matched the .22-caliber gun shell casings to the July 6 slaying of 65-year-old Mohamed Gebeli, who was found shot in the back at Valentino Fashion Inc., as well as the Aug. 6 slaying of 59-year-old Isaac Kadare, who was shot in the head at Amazing 99 Cent Deal.

Authorities said there were other similarities between the three cases: The shops all lacked surveillance cameras, and the owners were alone in the store. The bodies were all partially obscured by clothing or, in one case, a box. The locations of the shops form a triangle and are each about 4 miles apart, with addresses that contain the number eight. Money was taken from everyone but Vahidipour, who had $171 in his pocket.

Police said earlier this week that they were looking to speak to four people who possibly witnessed Vahidipour's death. But they focused their attention on the man with the duffel bag after reviewing surveillance footage. The official said authorities were speaking to the man, but no arrests or identifications were made yet.

The bag contained .22-caliber ammunition, black gloves and women's stockings, and two knives -- one that may have had blood on it, the official said.

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Nov. 19, 2012 - Brooklyn Shopkeeper Killer Update: Person of interest sought in store murder, NYPD says
Nov. 19, 2012 - Brooklyn Shopkeeper Killer: Gunman sought in three shopkeeper slayings, NYPD says