By Jonathan Allen
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Surviving members of the exiled Iranian rock band the Yellow Dogs said on Wednesday they were "blinded with rage and paralyzed with grief" over the fatal shooting of two of their bandmates in New York City.
In their first extensive comments since the attack Sunday night, Koory Mirzeai and Siavash Karampour, the Yellow Dogs' bassist and singer, said in a statement they had not seen shooter Ali Rafie in more than a year before his shooting spree.
Police said Rafie fatally shot the band's drummer and guitarist, along with a third musician living in their house, before killing himself.
Rafie briefly joined the Free Keys, another Iranian band, for live shows to fill in for their bass player, who was unable to get a visa to join the rest of the group in the United States, the statement said.
"By the third show, Free Keys decided to stop working with Rafie as a result of personal and musical differences," Mirzeai and Karampour said. "It became clear very quickly that he was just 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 added, without elaborating.
"When Rafie stopped being a part of the band, he stopped hanging around our inner circle of friends" and they had no contact with him for 14 months, the pair said.
Police said Rafie became depressed, and his mother petitioned the Free Keys to let him back in to the band.
Just before midnight on Sunday, Rafie took a rifle and sneaked into a house the Yellow Dogs share in Brooklyn's East Williamsburg neighborhood with their manager, a pair of Iranian street artist brothers, a member of the Free Keys and one or two others, police said.
He fatally shot Ali Eskandarian, a 35-year-old writer and a sometime guest vocalist with the Yellow Dogs, and the brothers Soroush, 27, and Arash Farazmand, 28, the band's guitarist and drummer, according to police.
He wounded another man in the house and unsuccessfully tried to shoot a former member of the Free Keys before heading to the roof and killing himself with the 19th of the 100 bullets he had brought with him.
"Three days later, we're still here, still breathing but with a gaping hole in our hearts," Mirzeai and Karampour, who were both working bar jobs that night, said. "These are the darkest hours of our lives, we are in shock, awe, blinded with rage and paralyzed with grief."
All four members of the Yellow Dogs fled their native Iran in 2010 to seek political asylum and the freedom to play the spiky, danceable punk-inflected music they loved, but which got them in trouble in the Islamic republic.
Eskandarian had nearly finished a memoir, Arash Farazmand had just received confirmation he had won political asylum in the United States - the last of the four members to do so - and Soroush Farazmand was working on new Yellow Dogs material.
"Everything we had hoped and worked for was finally coming true," Mirzeai and Karampour said. "The future was so incredibly bright."
"We will not let this disgusting brutality define us or become our story," they said, "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."
(Editing by Daniel Trotta and Maureen Bavdek)