NEW YORK -- A 63-year-old man was arrested Wednesday in the slayings of three shopkeepers in Brooklyn since July, attacks that terrified owners of small, independent stores and raised fears of a serial killer possibly motivated by anti-Middle Eastern bias.
At a news briefing Wednesday evening, Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said that Salvatore Perrone was placed under arrest after ballistics tests linked his .22-caliber sawed-off rifle to all three slayings, and after his fingerprints were found on the weapon. Kelly said detectives also found a kitchen knife with dried blood on it when they searched Perrone’s duffel bag, along with two folding knives and ammunition. He was charged with three counts of murder, and three counts of criminal possession of a weapon.
Perrone had become known as "John Doe Duffel Bag" after police earlier this week released surveillance video showing a man near the scene of the latest killing, which took place Friday, carrying a large duffel bag. Someone who saw Perrone in a pharmacy in the Bay Ridge section of Brooklyn recognized him from the video and called police. When officers arrived at the pharmacy, Perrone voluntarily went with them to be questioned, Kelly said.
Perrone made statements “implicating himself,” Kelly said. The commissioner also said that after the surveillance video was released, several shop owners called police to say they recognized John Doe Duffel Bag as an independent seller of clothing who would visit their stores to peddle his wares. Kelly said Perrone was a divorced native of Brooklyn who had stashed his duffel bag containing the weapons in his girlfriend’s house. She was not arrested.
It was not clear if anti-Middle Eastern bias played any part in the slayings. The killings occurred in different neighborhoods of Brooklyn but were strikingly similar. None of the targeted stores had surveillance cameras. All the victims were men of Middle Eastern descent. Mohamed Gebeli, 65, was shot to death in his clothing store July 6. Isaac Kadare, 59, was shot and stabbed to death Aug. 2 in his shop. The latest victim was 78-year-old Rahmatollah Vahidipour. He was shot to death in his clothing store in the Flatbush section of Brooklyn last Friday.
Each victim was found inside his shop, covered in clothing and other items. Police had offered a $22,000 for information leading to the killer in each of the slayings. Kelly said the person who recognized Perrone from the video and called police did not want to be identified.