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Massapequa Officer Slain in Drugstore Robbery

Rumors of friendly fire swirl around federal agent’s death

The final day of 2011 ended in tragedy for a Massapequa federal agent as John Capano was killed while trying to apprehend a robbery suspect at a drugstore in Seaford.

According to detectives, on Saturday, Dec. 31 at 1:54 p.m., the suspect entered Charlie’s Family Pharmacy, 3931 Merrick Rd. and announced an armed robbery demanding cash and drugs. The suspect, detectives said, received the proceeds and fled out the front door where three individuals confronted him. Two of those individuals were off duty law enforcement officers and one was a retired law enforcement officer, detectives added.

A shooting ensued, detectives said, and the suspect was struck by gunfire and succumbed to his wounds at the scene. Capano, a Massapequa resident and an agent with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, was also struck by gunfire and transported to a local area hospital where he too succumbed to his wounds. The two other individuals, identified in published reports as retired Nassau County police officer Lt. Christopher Geraghty of Woodbury and New York City Police Officer Joseph Arbia of Seaford were also transported to a local area hospital for observation.

The investigation is ongoing and Nassau County police spokesman Det. Lt. Kevin Smith declined to comment on published reports that Capano may have fatally wounded by friendly fire.

All Lt. Smith could tell the media was that the suspect “came out of the store and that’s when the shooting emerged. Exactly what happened, who pulled the gun out first? What happened? I can’t tell you. It’s a struggle to find out that information and part of it is talking to all the people that are involved.”

According to published reports, Capano was at the drugstore to receive cancer prescription medicine for his father. Also according to published reports, the initial confrontation took place as Capano followed the suspect, identified by detectives as James McGoey of Hampton Bays in the drugstore, where Capano wounded him with gunfire.

According to published reports, a passerby ran into a nearby deli to announce that a robbery was taking place at the drugstore. That is when Geraghty and Arbia arrived on the scene, which was now outside the drugstore. Published reports said that another struggle ensued, one in which Capano and later McGoey, were both mortally wounded.

A Life In Public Service

Capano was more than a federal agent. He was also an explosive expert who served deployments in both Afghanistan and Iraq and did investigative work in South America.

Among those who praised his courage was Rep. Peter King (R. -Seaford) who personally knew the deceased officer.

“[Capano] died the way he lived—-being tough and courageous, and helping the community,” said Rep. King.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) also issued their own tribute, noting that Capano had served in the ATF for 24 years, most currently as a member of the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association and the International Association of Bomb Technicians and Investigators (IABTI).

“John Capano was a trained and dedicated member of ATF’s Peer Support Team,” AFT officials said. “He volunteered his time and effort to help law enforcement officers and their family members work through crisis situations in a compassionate and confidential manner.

“Capano was no stranger to dangerous assignments. In fact, he volunteered for many of them,” AFT officials added. “In 2003, he became a Certified Explosives Specialist (CES), receiving advanced training in Post Blast Investigations, Explosives Identification, Explosives Handling and Destruction. He shared his expertise by hosting numerous explosives related training courses to state and local law enforcement officers in the Long Island area.”

For instance, Capano, in August 2007, traveled to Bogota, Columbia where he provided post blast investigation and advanced explosives destruction techniques training to both Columbian law enforcement officers and officers from Argentina, Brazil, Costa Rica, Panama and Paraguay.

The next year, in April 2008, Capano was detailed to Iraq for a 90-day mission with the Law and Order Task Force (LAOTF) at Forward Operating Base (FOB) Shield in Baghdad. In Iraq, Capano worked with civilian and military Coalition Forces to train and mentor Iraqi police in support of the LAOTF mission to build Iraqi capacity for independent, evidence-based, transparent investigations and to expand the rule of civilian law in that nation.

Finally, in May 2010, Capano volunteered for a 30-day assignment to Afghanistan where he delivered numerous explosives related training courses to U.S. and coalition forces, plus members of the Afghan National Army and the Afghan National Police.

In addition, Capano provided explosives training to soldiers from Fort Drum, Jefferson County, NY, who were being prepared for deployment to Afghanistan.

John Capano received numerous awards during his long career in public service. In 2008, he received the Award for Public Service for his work in the investigation and trial of the firebombing of Roseanne’s Cards Galore, a stationery store in New Hyde Park.

For his work in Iraq and Afghanistan, Capano was the recipient of the ATF Foreign Service Medal. He also received the Patriots Award from the Nassau County Police Reserves Association, an honor that was personally bestowed upon him by Rep. King.

Capano was a graduate of both Seaford High School and C.W. Post Center of Long Island University, where he was a criminal justice major and a member of the National Criminal Justice Honor Society. Prior to working at ATF, Capano was employed as an investigator with the New York State Department of Law, Office of Attorney General.

Capano is survived by his wife of 21 years, Dori, and their children John M., a freshman at Northeastern University and Natalie, a sophomore at St. John the Baptist High School. He is also survived by his father, James Capano (NYPD Ret.); two brothers, Jimmy and Stephen; and three sisters, Maryellen, Katie and Sheila.

The funeral mass for John Capano will take place Friday, Jan. 6 at St. William the Abbot Roman Catholic Church in Seaford at 11 a.m., followed by burial at St. Charles Cemetery in East Farmingdale.