06:58 - Source: CNN
2009: Iran's underground rock scene

Story highlights

Police: Ali Akbar Mohammadi Rafie took his own life after shooting former band mates

"He was not a natural fit within our group of friends," surviving members say

The Yellow Dogs were featured in a 2009 CNN report about Iran's underground rock scene

Loss of their fellow musicians left "a gaping hole in our hearts," members say

CNN  — 

The man who New York police say shot to death three Iranian musicians was kicked out of their indie rock band last year, surviving band members said Wednesday.

Ali Akbar Mohammadi Rafie, 29, took his own life Monday after shooting his former band mates in the Brooklyn apartment where they lived and practiced, the New York Police Department said.

The dead included guitarist Soroush Farazmand, 27, whose rock band the Yellow Dogs was featured in a 2009 CNN report about Iran’s burgeoning underground rock scene.

Farazmand’s brother, Arash, 28, a drummer with the Free Keys who later joined the Yellow Dogs, was also shot and killed at the same location.

A third man killed was Iranian musician Ali Eskandarian, 35.

New York Police Commissioner Ray Kelly told reporters that the gunman used a .308-caliber assault rifle, apparently to settle a “dispute … over money” between the bands.

The gunman shot and killed one of the victims through a window before entering the building in the East Williamsburg neighborhood and shooting the others on the second and third floors, Kelly said. Rafie shot himself on the roof after scuffling with at least one of two other people.

Rafie came to the United States soon after joining the group in Iran to replace a bass player who could not get a visa, members Siavash “Obash” Karampour and Koory Mirzeai said in a written statement sent to CNN on Wednesday.

“It became clear very quickly that he was not a natural fit within our group of friends, and his personal views conflicted with our approach to our art and to the world,” they said.

Rafie was booted from the band several months later “and in the 14 months since then, we’ve had no contact with him at all,” the statement said.

The loss of their fellow musicians left “a gaping hole in our hearts,” they said. “For now it’s impossible to even imagine a future without our friends, and no explanation can make sense or begin to justify what has happened to our lives.”

The survivors are “in shock, awe, blinded with rage and paralyzed with grief,” they said.

“Ali Eskandarian was nearly finished with his memoir, Arash had just received political asylum from Iran and Soroush was hard at work on new Yellow Dogs material,” they said. “Everything we had hoped and worked for was finally coming true. … The future was so incredibly bright.

The band will continue to make music, they said.

“We will not let this disgusting brutality define us or become our story, but instead respond by creating music more passionately and with more intensity than ever before, embracing the freedom that we all dreamed would one day be ours back in Iran and play to honor those who should be playing next to us.”

They are planning a memorial service for the three, which will be announced later, they said.

In the 2009 CNN report, members of Yellow Dogs described performing in an improvised, clandestine music studio to avoid the wrath of Islamic authorities. The band settled in East Williamsburg after attention generated by the group’s contribution to the soundtrack of a film called “No One Knows About Persian Cats,” a movie about Iran’s underground music scene that won an award at the Cannes Film Festival.

“The law has a problem with rock music so we can’t play it,” Karampour told CNN in 2009.

Iranian authorities viewed the band members as “anarchists,” Karampour told CNN.

“They’re like my brothers,” Karampour said of the band members. “They’re more close than my brothers.”

In the CNN story, Yellow Dog members described their brand of music as rock played with bad equipment and said it touched on subjects ranging from Iranian oppression to American greed.

CNN’s Ray Sanchez, Reza Sayah, Nic Robertson and Azadeh Ansari contributed to this report.