Tag Archives: Brooklyn

‘Gentrification in Progress’ banner appears on 5Pointz building


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER

Two artists are making sure their voices are heard as the demolition of the buildings that were once home to 5Pointz continues.

Artists gilf! and BAMN (By Any Means Necessary) collaborated to put a large yellow tape around the Jackson Avenue side of the Long Island City building with the words “Gentrification in Progress,” according to a Twitter post. The banner was reported on the site Sunday morning.

After a long fight to save 5Pointz, the LIC graffiti mecca, years of art was whitewashed overnight last year. The owners of the property on Jackson Avenue and Davis Street, the Wolkoff family, ordered the action to be taken in November. Rallies were held throughout that same month to save the site, including a gathering just three days before the whitewashing, requesting the building with its art be landmarked.

Since the whitewashing, the demolition process has slowly begun with signs of asbestos removal crews at the location.

 

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Rare skin infection outbreak tied to Chinatown seafood markets


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

FishHC1109_X_300_C_Y

The Health Department is warning customers of Chinatown seafood markets in Queens and other parts of the city about an outbreak of a rare skin infection.

Anyone who has handled live or raw fish or other seafood purchased at Chinatown markets in Queens, Brooklyn or Manhattan could be affected, the Health Department said Wednesday.

The infection is transferred through a break in the skin, such as a cut, and is caused by a bacteria called Mycobacterium marinum.

People are strongly advised to wear waterproof gloves when handling any raw seafood that may have come from these markets.

There is no risk from consuming food from the markets, according to the Health Department.

So far, 30 cases of the infection have been identified.

Symptoms include red, tender lumps or swelling under the skin of the hands or arms. People may additionally develop swelling or pain in their hands or arms and have trouble moving their fingers.

If you exhibit any symptoms or believe you may have been infected, see an infectious disease physician or dermatologist. You can also call the Health Department’s Bureau of Communicable Disease at 347-396-2600 and ask to speak with a doctor.

Treatment includes antibiotics and should begin right away.

When left untreated it can become a more serious infection that requires surgery.

 

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Queens laundromat theft tied to nine Brooklyn burglaries


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

396-14 BRS CW Pattern #5 from Incident #8

Three suspects are wanted in a two-borough burglary spree targeting laundromats, cops said.

The latest burglary took place about 3:10 a.m. Tuesday at Megawash Laundry on Merrick Boulevard near Anderson Road in Jamaica, according to police

The suspects are also connected to nine burglaries in Brooklyn between Jan. 19 and Feb. 22, the NYPD said. Those thefts included seven additional laundromats as well as two restaurants.

During each incident, the three suspects, all wearing masks and gloves, with one armed with a gun, enter the business and take money from the register as well as any customers, cops said.

There were no reported injuries during any of the burglaries.

Police describe the suspects as black males.

Anyone with information is asked to call Crime Stoppers at (800) 577-TIPS (8477). The public can also submit their tips by logging onto the Crime Stoppers website or can text their tips to CRIMES (274637), then enter TIP577. All calls are strictly confidential.

 

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MTA announces Bus Time launch date for all Queens routes


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre

As promised, the MTA is set to debut its live bus tracking service in all of Queens and the rest of Brooklyn.

The MTA will launch Bus Time, which allows riders to follow real-time location of buses through any web-enabled smartphone or computer via GPS, on March 9, the transit agency announced Monday.

Bus Time users can also text an intersection or street address to 511123 to receive a message listing local bus routes or find out information by using a smartphone with a QR-code reader. The QR-code is printed on the Guide-A-Ride schedules posted at bus stops.

The expansion adds more than 9,000 additional bus stops to the Bus Time system, according to the MTA.

Bus Time started serving all of Staten Island’s bus routes in January 2012. Bus Time was later expanded to include all Bronx and Manhattan routes as well as Brooklyn’s B63 and B61 lines.

 

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Corona immunization clinic set to close once again


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/File Photo

It’s déjà-vu for two major immunization walk-in clinics as the city renews its plans to close the sites by the end of the month, according to union leaders.

In August, the City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) announced it would close the Corona Health Center, located at 34-33 Junction Blvd., and the Tremont Health Center in the Bronx. After community protest, the city temporarily stopped the plan and rescheduled the closing for the end of 2013.

Yet, after keeping the clinics open into the New Year with funds provided by the City Council, closures are expected for the end of February.

“The function of immunization is prevention,” said Fitz Reid, president of Local 768, a union representing health care workers. “It’s not just job protections, it’s to protect the children, protect the public.”

The closures are expected to severely limit access to free and low-cost immunizations for low-income and poor families, protecting them from diseases such as the flu, meningitis, Hepatitis B, measles, mumps, rubella and others.

The DOHMH also plans on cutting the hours of its STD clinics, according to union leaders.

Public employee union District Council 37 tried to hold a meeting with the Health Department, but said it was not productive as no immunization representative attended. The group now wants to schedule a new meeting with the hope of getting their concerns heard by the department’s newly appointed commissioner, Dr. Mary Bassett.

“We’re hoping that when she takes the reigns, we’ll be able to meet with her and have a productive meeting where we emphasize the importance of the clinics in the communities,” said Judith Arroyo, president of Local 436, United Federation of Nurses and Epidemiologists. “We’re just waiting for a response.”

According to Arroyo, the immunization clinics are necessary because they serve as the first step for immigrant families to learn about health care and begin immunization records for their children.

One of the major issues at hand is that every closure has been kept from the community, said leaders. Residents would then have to travel to the Fort Greene Health Center, located at 295 Flatbush Ave. in Brooklyn, the city’s only walk-in immunization clinic.

“I continue to oppose the closure of the Corona immunization clinic,” Councilmember Daniel Dromm said. “The Department of Health unfortunately has decided to keep their plans for the center in the dark. Residents need to have access to these services, including school children who are required to have certain shots before attending class.”

The DOHMH did not respond to requests for comment as of press time.

 

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Parents ‘grateful’ after missing autistic Rego Park 12-year-old found safe


| mchan@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of NYPD

Updated 4:50 p.m.

An autistic 12-year-old boy who sprinted out of his Rego Park home Thursday was found safe in Brooklyn after a terrifying four hour search, police and family said.

Brandon Betancourt jetted out of his apartment complex on 66th Road near 67th Avenue about 7 a.m., police said.

“He just ran out,” said his father, Joe Betancourt. “He’s very fast. It’s hard to catch him. I’m just grateful he’s home.”

Police brought him to safety about 11 a.m., after a guidance counselor spotted him on the J train platform at the Broadway Junction subway station in Cypress Hills, about an hour journey from his home.

Brandon, who is incredibly smart, functions at a high level and knows his way around the city’s subway system, his father and neighbors said.

The boy also loves trains and has taken off a handful of times in the past, Joe and the building’s superintendent said.

“When I saw cops outside, I knew immediately,” the super said. “I told them to go to the subways.”

Joe said he fears his son does not understand the dangers of running away, even after the remains of Avonte Oquendo, the autistic 14-year-old who went missing in October, were found washed up in College Point two weeks ago.

“We try to tell him not to do this, especially after what happened to Avonte,” Joe said.

Avonte and Brandon are both from Rego Park. They were former classmates, though not at the Center Boulevard School in Long Island City, where Avonte was last seen leaving, Joe said.

“For parents of autistic kids, I want them to know they are runners. I don’t know what it is about that, but they tend to run,” Joe said. “Always be on alert.”

Though frightening, the situation is common, said Michelle López, who manages autism initiatives at Queens Museum. Similar scenarios are likely to increase as more families push for inclusion, she said. 

“We’re going to see more of these types of situations, where there will be a missing child with autism and people don’t know how to interact, when they see a wandering child who doesn’t respond to them,” she said. “It’s in everyone’s best interest to be aware now.”

Autism Speaks, a leading advocacy organization, urges parents to secure homes with battery-operated door alarms, alert neighbors and consider identification bracelets or tracking devices.

U.S. Senator Charles Schumer wants the Department of Justice to create and fund a program that would provide voluntary trackers for children with autism or other development disorders.

Councilmember Paul Vallone is drafting a bill, calling for a similar citywide program.

 

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Loehmann’s sets sails for “Going Out of Business” sales


| mmcgoldrick@homereporter.com

It looks like local landmark Loehmann’s won’t make it to 100. The premier upscale off-price specialty retailer – just seven years short of a century old – has announced its official “Going out of Business” sale.

Loehmann’s first opened in Crown Heights in 1921 when Frieda Loehmann made her rounds to high-end designer showrooms, turning overstocks, cancellations and samples into a discount shopper’s paradise – with a wholesale price. Often called a trendsetter of a time where women rarely played that role, Loehmann’s detail-oriented approach to discount retail set the standard for an industry to come.

The store soon moved to its flagship Duryea Place location, just off Flatbush Avenue in the heart of that strip’s shopping district.

“There is no store quite like Loehmann’s,” said Scott Bernstein, COO of SB Capital Group. “During its more than 90 years in business, the Loehmann’s name became synonymous with great quality and value.”

On Tuesday, the U.S. Bankruptcy Court approved an order authorizing a joint venture formed by SB Capital Group, LLC, Tiger Capital Group, LLC, and A & G Realty Partners, to conduct “Going out of Business” sales in each of the superstore’s 39 locations and 11 states across the country.

That includes its Sheepshead Bay outpost at 2807 East 21st St., which opened in the mid- 1990s, around the same time the store’s Duryea Place location shut its doors.

Loehmann’s also has locations in Chelsea and the Upper West Side in Manhattan, in the Riverdale section of the Bronx, and in New Hyde Park and Hewlett, Long Island.

It may be bittersweet, but savvy shoppers are about to be dealt more than just a sweet New Year’s sale.

“A sale of this nature in these stores will be historical,” said Bernstein. “With millions of dollars of inventory from some of the greatest names in fashion for women and men, the savings, even for Loehmann’s traditional customers, will be unprecedented.”

More than $65 million of current in-season inventory – as well as new arrivals – will be liquidated during the bittersweet “Going out of Business” sales, which begins Thursday, Jan. 9.

 

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Teen hijacks car after helping stranger dig it out of snow


| mchan@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of NYPD

An act of kindness quickly turned violent Saturday when a Brooklyn teen robbed his peer at gunpoint after first helping his victim dig his car out of the snow, police said.

Genero Placenia, 18, offered to help a 19-year-old male push his buried 2001 Honda Civic out of the snow in Ozone Park about 3:30 p.m., police said.

But once the vehicle was free, Placenia asked for a ride, then allegedly pulled out a 9mm High Point gun and robbed the driver of his iPhone 5, $60 and car, cops said.

Police later found and chased the suspect until he was caught at 115 Logan Street. By then, Placenia had ditched his gun and shed most of his clothes, including his shoes, police said.

The victim’s car was also found abandoned, lodged in snow again, at Logan Avenue and Atlantic Avenue.

The suspect was taken to Jamaica Hospital for treatment, police said. He was charged with robbery, resisting arrest and criminal possession of a weapon and stolen property.

 

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Mayor de Blasio shovels snow at Park Slope home


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Photo via Twitter/@BilldeBlasio

Even the mayor of New York City shovels his own snow.

Mayor Bill de Blasio was hard at work outside of his Park Slope, Brooklyn home Friday morning shoveling snow from the sidewalk.

The newly-inaugurated mayor, tweeted a photo of himself shoveling, along with a message promoting the city’s PlowNYC feature, which posts online real-time updates of the Department of Sanitation’s snow clearance operations throughout the five boroughs.

In an interview with NY1 Friday morning, de Blasio gave some tips on how to shovel.

“Don’t lift with your back, lift with your knees,” he told NY1.

He also said his 16-year-old son Dante, who, as a junior at Brooklyn Technical High School, has the day off from school, would be helping with the snow clearing, NY1 reported.

A short time later that morning, the teen made an appearance in front of the media and shoveled and salted his home’s walkway.

At a press briefing on the storm Friday, the mayor said his son “was not an early riser,” but had now contributed to the clearing of the city’s sidewalks.


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De Blasio sworn in as 109th mayor of New York City


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Photos via NYC Mayor's Office Flickr/Official Photos by New York City Mayor's Office

Updated 1:30 p.m.

The Bloomberg era has ended and the de Blasio administration has begun.

New York City’s 109th mayor, Bill de Blasio, was sworn in during a ceremony at his Park Slope, Brooklyn home just after midnight Wednesday, followed by a formal inauguration on the steps of City Hall later that day.

State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman officiated the New Year’s Eve oath of office, which was also attended by the mayor’s wife Chirlane McCray, daughter Chiara and son Dante.

“From the beginning, this has been our family together reaching out to the people of this city to make a change that we all needed. I want to thank you for having brought us to this moment,” de Blasio said after taking the oath in front of his home.

“To everyone this is the beginning of a road we will travel together,” he added.

Former President Bill Clinton swore in de Blasio on the steps of City Hall with a bible once owned by former President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

De Blasio previously served as a regional director in the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development during the Clinton administration and managed Hillary Clinton’s 2000 U.S. Senate campaign. Both endorsed de Blasio for mayor in the general election.

Before administering the oath, Clinton said it had been a “great joy” for his wife, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and him to see de Blasio’s progress “because he has served with such passion and because he represents with his family the future of our city and the future of our country.”

Telling New Yorkers “our work begins today,” in his inauguration speech de Blasio pledged to expand the pay sick leave law, require big developers to build affordable housing, stem the tide of hospital closures, reform a broken stop-and-frisk policy and ask the wealthy to pay a little more in taxes to provide universal, full-day pre-k and after-school programs for middle schoolers.

“We won’t wait, we’’ll do it now,” he said.

“Let me be clear: When I said I would take dead aim at the tale of two cities, I meant it. And we will do it.” he added.

A thousand tickets were reserved for the general public to attend the public swearing-in ceremony, with de Blasio pledging that it would be an “inauguration for all New Yorkers.”

Several dozen New Yorkers from across the city were additionally invited to join the mayor on stage. The group included a Queens engineer who emigrated from Bangladesh, according to de Blasio.

Mayor de Blasio takes the subway with his family to his City Hall inauguration.

Queens resident and the 2014 New York City Youth Poet Laureate, Ramya Ramana, read an original poem at the inauguration, which she dedicated to de Blasio.

Ramana, a first generation Indian-American, grew up in the borough and recently won the New York Knicks’ Poetry scholarship to St. John’s University, where she is a first-year student, according to the mayor.

Letitia James, who is succeeding de Blasio as public advocate was also sworn in at City Hall Wednesday. The councilmember is the first woman of color to hold citywide office. Scott Stringer, Manhattan Borough President since 2006, was sworn in as city comptroller, replacing John Liu.

 

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Trio of local female filmmakers hope to make mark in movie industry


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Courtesy of graphic designer Alison Chin and photographer Ben Jarosch

A trio of female filmmakers has come together to create a unique film, as they look to become leaders in an industry started by men.

The all-female filmmaking team, made up of director, writer and lead actress Victoria Negri, and producers Effie Fradelos and Katie Maguire, has begun working on a film called “Gold Star.”

The film, which was written by 26-year-old Negri, who lives in Manhattan, is based on the story of a girl growing up and building a relationship with a father 65 years older than her.

“Gold Star,” expected to begin filming in mid-April, will star Negri as the lead role and is based on the writer’s real life experiences with her father, who passed away in 2012.

“I always hoped people would want to work on my film while I was writing it, but I don’t think I ever really imagined I’d have people equally enthusiastic about my passion project as I am,” said Negri. “It’s especially important for me to involve other female filmmakers because I think it’s important to make movies about women that are created by women.”

This movie is the first time the filmmakers have come together to create a completely female team working on a female story bringing audiences real emotions and experiences they can feel a connection to.

“It is important for females to dispel all of the false, preconceived notions that women cannot work together,” said Maguire, 34, from Brooklyn. “As the popularity of independent film is growing so is the number of female directors and producers. It is important that women stick together and help bring to life stories from a female perspective.”

The filmmakers are aware they are working in an industry founded by men, but they remain strong and plan on working hard to turn the industry into one led by women. The film also plans to serve as a model to other women looking to enter the film industry.

“We represent the everyday woman filmmaker,” said Fradelos, 26, born in Astoria and now living in Bayside. “I think if you’re a young girl or a woman and you want to break into the industry, stop looking for others to give you their hand, and do it yourself, most people need that push and as filmmakers we should all push each other.”

Casting for the film is underway and the team hopes to film the movie in Connecticut and New York.

To raise money for the preproduction of the film, the filmmakers will hold a fundraiser on Tuesday, January 28 from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. at Esperanto N.Y.C., located at 145 Avenue C in Manhattan. There will be a $20 entry fee to the event which will feature drinks, a raffle and live music.

The film is expected to be completed by the fall of 2014. To learn more about “Gold Star” and the female filmmakers you can visit the official website, Facebook page or follow @GoldStarFilm on Twitter.

 

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Woman dies after jumping in front of train at Myrtle-Wyckoff Avenues station


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/File photo

A woman was killed Monday morning after she was struck by an M train at a subway station on the Ridgewood border, police said.

The woman, who police said was in her 30s, was pronounced dead about 9:30 a.m. at the Myrtle-Wyckoff Avenues station

Cops said the woman was hit after she jumped in front of a Queens-bound train.

 

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De Blasio to live in Gracie Mansion


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Photo via Wikimedia Commons/Jim.henderson

The de Blasios are moving out of Brooklyn and into Gracie Mansion.

After much speculation, the mayor-elect announced Wednesday through his Transition 2013 website he would live in the Manhattan digs during his time heading the city.

“It’s a tough decision. Brooklyn is our home and Park Slope is our neighborhood. And we love these places. In many ways, they’ve come to define who we are,” de Blasio said in a statement on the site.

“For a variety of reasons, like logistical and security concerns, we’ve decided to move to Gracie Mansion. It’s a practical choice but one that we make with respect and gratitude for the people of New York City.”

One reported reason the family was considering staying in Brooklyn was the commute his 16-year-old son Dante would need to take to Brooklyn Technical High School.

But the de Blasios won’t be leaving Brooklyn behind.

“Even while we move to Gracie Mansion for a spell, we’ll be keeping our home in Brooklyn and stopping by our favorite spots like The Purity Diner and Bar Toto as often as we can. And don’t bet against seeing us at the Park Slope YMCA occasionally,” de Blasio said.

 

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Multi-million dollar trademark counterfeiting rings operating from Queens busted


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of the Queens District Attorney’s Office

Multi-million dollar trademark counterfeiting rings, operating from facilities in Queens and Brooklyn, have been charged for importing, manufacturing and distributing items nationwide.

According to District Attorney Richard A. Brown, four organized trademark counterfeiting rings have been dismantled after the indictment of 26 individuals and two corporations for allegedly importing and selling counterfeit brand name apparel and other items from China to wholesale buyers throughout the United States and the Virgin Islands.

“Operations such as those allegedly run by the defendants fuel an underground economy,” said Brown. “They are cash businesses that pay no taxes and damage the reputations of reputable brand owners and lower consumer confidence in the name brands by foisting inferior products into the marketplace.”

The four rings allegedly generated close to $10 million in combined gross annual revenue operating out of self-storage facilities in the two boroughs. The Mayor’s Office of Special Enforcement, a multi-agency task force operating under the City’s Criminal Justice Coordinator’s Office, will be filing nuisance abatement lawsuits against the facilities that allegedly were being used, as well as their owners and operators and those defendants who actually ran the illegal businesses from within the sites.

Nineteen of the defendants, including one of the corporations, are currently in custody and were arraigned on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Twelve of the defendants have been indicted for enterprise corruption under New York State’s Organized Crime Control Act. The remaining defendants face felony trademark counterfeiting and conspiracy charges.

The investigation, called “Operation Finish Line,” began in November 2010, and included the apprehension of counterfeit merchandise with an estimated street value of $750,000.

One of the counterfeiting enterprises, The Izak and Joseph Trademark Counterfeiting Enterprise, has been charged with enterprise corruption. It is alleged that since May 2012 the enterprise has imported more than 100,000 pairs of jeans and more than 100,000 articles of clothing, including blank shirts, fleece jackets, and steep-tech style jackets. It is also alleged that the enterprise created several factories that attached counterfeit trademarks of True Religion, Polo Ralph Lauren, and The North Face to the formerly generic product, and the finished product is then sold and distributed throughout Queens and the country.

This enterprise included four Queens individuals who were indicted after the bust. One of the individuals in the enterprise that was charged is Bobak Ahouraie, 23, of Bellerose. He was charged with enterprise corruption, first- and second-degree trademark counterfeiting and fourth- and fifth-degree conspiracy. Suk B. Yi, 18, of Oakland Gardens, was charged with enterprise corruption, first- and second-degree trademark counterfeiting and fourth- and fifth-degree conspiracy. Samantha Defreitas, 26, of Woodhaven, was charged with third-degree trademark counterfeiting. Jan Sanandaji, 37, of Great Neck, is charged with second-degree trademark counterfeiting.

The second ring, known as The Xiu Wei Ye and Jian Zhong Jian Operation, conducted a large scale trademark-counterfeiting operation where they purchased footwear and other items featuring counterfeit trademarks of various brands and maintained the items at their Brooklyn store and sold the items wholesale to customers throughout the country, including undercover police officers.

Individuals charged in this group included Jian Zhong Jian, 43, of Flushing who was charged with second- and third-degree trademark counterfeit, and Xiu Wei Ye, 43, from Flushing, who was charged with second- and third-degree trademark counterfeit.

The third ring, known as The Peter Operation, allegedly conducted a large scale trademark-counterfeiting operation in which they maintained the merchandise at its store in College Point.

The final ring, known as The James, Leon and Omar Untaxed and Trademark Counterfeiting Cigarette Operation, allegedly bought and sold untaxed and trademark counterfeit cigarettes and supplied those cigarettes to Bobak Ahouraie, of Bellerose. Ahouraie was charged with second-degree trademark counterfeit in his involvement in this operation.

 

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Ridgewood musician kills himself, three others in Brooklyn shooting


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

A Ridgewood man fatally shot himself and three fellow musicians at a Brooklyn home Monday morning, according to police and published reports.

Ali Akbar Mohammadi Rafie, 29, allegedly killed the three men and wounded a fourth just after midnight at a residence on Maujer Street in East Williamsburg, said cops.

Two of the homicide victims, Soroush Farazmand, 27, and his brother, Arash, 28, were both members of Yellow Dogs, an indie band that originated in Iran, according to published reports.

The third victim, Ali Eskandarian, 35, was reportedly not a part of the band, but was also a musician.

The wounded victim, a 22-year-old man, was shot in the right arm and was taken to Elmhurst Hospital, where he remains in stable condition, said cops.

Police said they discovered Rafie dead on the roof of the Maujer Street home with a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head and a rifle next to his body.

Rafie was a member of another Iranian band, the Free Keys, the New York Times reported. Members of both bands were acquaintances, but Rafie was no longer a part of the Free Keys.

According to reports, Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said the shooting seems to have stemmed from a dispute over money “involving an indie rock band.”

 

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