Two of the dead were brothers and members of the group the Yellow Dogs, who came to the U.S. from Iran three years ago after appearing in a film about the underground music scene there, according to band manager Ali Salehezadeh. Another person killed was also a musician but wasn't in the band, and the wounded person was an artist, he said.
The shooter was a member of another band from Iran, the Free Keys, who knew the victims but hadn't spoken to them in months because of a "very petty conflict," Salehezadeh said, declining to give specifics.
"There was a decision not to be around each other," he said. "They were never that close to begin with. ... This was nothing. We thought it was all behind us."
Detectives suspect there was a dispute over money, but they were still investigating the motive and the relationships between the victims and the shooter, Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said. Preliminary reports from police that the shooter had been a member of the Yellow Dogs but was kicked out were inaccurate, the manager said.
The four victims lived in a row house in East Williamsburg, an industrial neighborhood home to mostly warehouses where artists can rent cheaper space than in trendier parts of the city.
The rampage erupted shortly after midnight when the gunman opened fire through a window, then went inside and continued firing, Kelly said. Police found a 27-year-old man with a gunshot wound to the chest on the second floor. Two others were found shot in the head on the floor above, a 35-year-old and another whose age wasn't immediately known. A 22-year-old artist was wounded in the arm and was hospitalized in stable condition.
The gunman was found on the roof with a self-inflicted shot to the head, police said. An assault-style rifle was found next to the body. Kelly said it had been purchased in upstate New York in 2006 and police were investigating its history.
The names of the victims and the shooter were not immediately released.
The Yellow Dogs played recent gigs in New York at indie rock venues like the Knitting Factory and Brooklyn Bowl, and their dance music sound is a little like Joy Division. Originally from Tehran, they were the subject of a 2009 film, "No One Knows about Persian Cats," which told the semi-fictional tale of a band that played illegal rock shows in Tehran.
The band came to the United States to pursue its dream of playing rock music in an open society, Salehezadeh said.
"You can't be a rock star in Iran," he said. "It's against cultural law. You can't grow there as a band."
The manager added: "They were great kids who people just loved. They looked cool and they played great music. ... They wanted to be known for their music. Now we're not going to get to do that."
The two members who were killed were a guitarist and a drummer who had just received political asylum. The bass player and singer weren't home at the time of the bloodshed and weren't harmed.
Salehezadeh spent the morning on the phone speaking to the victims' relatives, who were stunned by the violence.
"People don't own guns in Iran," he said. "We don't have this problem there. It doesn't exist."