US & Canada

Yellow Dogs shooting: US-Iranian band members killed in NY

Members of the Yellow Dogs, (L-R) Soroush Farazmand, Koory Mirz, Siavash Karampour and Arash Farazmand are shown at The Gutter bowling alley in Williamsburg neighbourhood in New York in 2011
Image caption Soroush Farazmand (far left) and his brother, Arash Farazmand (far right), were killed in the attack

Four Iranian-expatriate musicians living in Brooklyn, New York, have been shot dead in what authorities are labelling a murder-suicide.

Two members of the group Yellow Dogs and a third artist were slain by a fellow musician, Ali Akbar Mahammadi Rafie, who later took his own life.

Police believe the attack happened as Rafie, 29, was upset after being thrown out of another band.

Two of those killed had just received political asylum in the US.

They were brothers and members of the Yellow Dogs, who described themselves on their Twitter feed as "a Post Punk/Dance Punk band from Tehran/Iran, living in Brooklyn at the moment".

'Petty conflict'

Gunfire rang out early on Monday as Rafie climbed from the roof on to a third-floor terrace where he opened fire through a window, shooting dead Ali Eskandarian, 35, a musician, said police.

Image caption Drummer Arash Farazmand was found dead on the apartment's third floor

Arash Farazmand, 28, the Yellow Dogs drummer, was found dead on the same level of the apartment.

His brother, Soroush Farazmand, 27, the band's guitarist, was using his laptop in bed when he received fatal gunshot injuries.

The Yellow Dogs' two other members were not at the flat at the time of the killing.

According to police, another unidentified tenant was hit in the arm as Rafie and a former fellow band mate from a group called the Free Keys struggled over the gun.

Rafie retrieved ammunition that had fallen out of the firearm, went to the roof and shot himself in the head, said police.

The person wounded in the arm was taken to hospital and is said to be in stable condition.

Rafie "was upset that he wasn't in the band anymore", said New York Police Department spokesman John McCarthy.

Investigators believe the gunman and his former Free Keys members, may have had an argument over money, but it was unclear why he shot at members of the Yellow Dogs.

The rifle was found next to Rafie's body, according to NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly.

He said it had been purchased in New York state in 2006, and police were tracking its history.

Police are investigating whether a guitar case found near the scene was used to carry the assault rifle in the attack.

The Yellow Dogs were well-known among young Iranian expatriates in the US, reports Bahman Kalbasi of the BBC Persian service.

Ali Salehezadeh, the band's manager, said the gunman knew the victims but had not spoken to them in months because of a "petty conflict".

"There was a decision not to be around each other," he said. "They were never that close to begin with. We thought it was all behind us."

Relatives 'stunned'

The shooting took place in Brooklyn's East Williamsburg neighbourhood, known for its edgy, creative vibe and community of artists and musicians. The band members had lived in the neighbourhood.

Image caption Brooklyn's East Williamsburg neighbourhood is known for its edgy, creative vibe and community of artists and musicians

"They seem like really nice guys," a local man, Martin Greenman, told the New York Daily News.

"They didn't seem to be in any way to be violent guys. They weren't rabble rousers or anything like that."

Mr Salehezadeh said the victims' relatives were stunned.

"People don't own guns in Iran," he said. "We don't have this problem there. It doesn't exist."

Members of an Iranian band with the same name were interviewed by US consulate officials in Istanbul in 2009 as they applied for a visa for a US tour, according to a diplomatic cable leaked to Wikileaks.

They described the "small but crazy" underground rock scene in Tehran, saying it was the community that offered "the most free expression" in Iran.