Police Question 'Person of Interest' in Brooklyn Shopkeeper Killings

By Murray Weiss and Julie Shapiro  on November 20, 2012 6:39pm  | Updated on November 21, 2012 1:03pm

NEW YORK — The NYPD was questioning a "person of interest" in the killing of three Brooklyn shopkeepers Tuesday evening and planned to get a search warrant for his home, police sources said.

The man, whom police initially dubbed "John Doe Duffel Bag" for the bag he was seen carrying, was spotted in surveillance footage near the two most recent murders, police said.

After the NYPD widely circulated images of the man, a friend called and told him, sources said. The man then walked into Brooklyn's 68th Precinct Tuesday afternoon and said, "I'm the guy on the video. I'm the one you're looking for," sources said.

The mustachioed man, a Staten Island resident, works in the garment industry, where he was widely known for going door-to-door selling merchandise to stores, sources said. 

After hours of questioning Tuesday, the man had not confessed, but police planned to get a search warrant for his Staten Island home and his girlfriend's home in Brooklyn, sources said. 

There, they discovered a duffel bag carrying a .22 caliber rifle — the same make as the gun used in the three murders, police said Wednesday.

Those who know the man described him as quiet and well-liked and were shocked to hear he could have been involved in the murders, sources said.

The man was seen in surveillance footage taken near the Flatbush shop where 78-year-old Vahidipour Rahmatollah was killed last Friday, and police believe he also appears in footage taken near the murder of a Bensonhurst shopkeeper in August, sources said.

The .22 caliber handgun that was used to kill Rahmatollah was the same used in the murders of Isaac Kadare on Aug. 2 and Mohamed Galebi on July 6 inside their stores in Bensonhurst and Bay Ridge, the NYPD said.

All the victims were reportedly Middle Eastern, and all three of their faces were covered when police found them.

As of early Wednesday morning, police sources were describing the man with the duffel bag as a "person of interest," not a suspect.

The NYPD confirmed that police were questioning a man who fit the description of "John Doe Duffel Bag."

As detectives worked to solve the case, Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said earlier Tuesday that community affairs officers were asking other shopkeepers to be safe.

"We want them to be perhaps a little more aware," Kelly said, "and if possible, have someone with them in the stores.''

With reporting by Trevor Kapp

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