New York City police detectives Wednesday recovered a sawed-off rifle believed to have been used in the mysterious shooting deaths of three businessmen of Middle Eastern descent, and a person was in custody, a law enforcement official said.
The Ruger 10-22 rifle had a makeshift light attached to its barrel and was found inside a duffel bag belonging to a balding, middle-aged man who was seen on surveillance footage moments after the most recent killing on Friday in Brooklyn, the official said. The official was not authorized to speak publicly and spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity. 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.
The most recent killing happened Friday afternoon when Rahmatollah Vahidipour, a Jewish man from Iran, was shot three times in the head and chest at his store, the She She Boutique.
After the latest killing, detectives discovered the same gun was used in the fatal shootings of two other shopkeepers when ballistics matched the .22-caliber gun shell casings on all three. On July 6, Mohamed Gebeli, 65, an Egyptian immigrant and a Muslim, was found shot in the back of his shop, Valentino Fashion Inc. On Aug. 6, Isaac Kadare, 59, also Egyptian but Jewish, was shot in the head in his store, Amazing 99 Cent Deal.
There were other similarities, authorities said: 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, 78, who had $171 in his pocket.
Police earlier this week said they were looking to speak to four people who possibly witnessed the most recent incident and released video and clear images of the four, but zeroed in on the man with the bag. The official said authorities were speaking to the man, but no arrests or identifications had been 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.