SEAFORD, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) – Investigators are still trying to determine who shot and killed an off-duty federal law enforcement agent during a pharmacy robbery on Long Island on New Year’s Eve.
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It is still unclear whether the robbery suspect shot 51-year-old John Capano or whether the veteran ATF agent was struck by a bullet fired by another off-duty officer who responded to the scene.
Flowers and flags mark the spot outside the Seaford Pharmacy, where the tragic sequence of events unfolded.
Capano walked over to Charlie’s Family Pharmacy on Merrick Road in Seaford on Saturday afternoon to pick up his father’s cancer medication.
“I was going to go down but he said I’m going down so I’ll get it,” 82-year-old James Capano, whose wife died of breast cancer two weeks ago, told CBS 2.
But while Capano was inside the pharmacy, investigators say a man identified as 43-year-old James McGoey, of Hampton Bays, announced a holdup while brandishing a pellet gun and demanded the prescription painkiller oxycontin and some cash.
Capano confronted the suspect at the door as an off-duty NYPD officer and a retired Nassau County police lieutenant, who happened to be in a deli nearby, also showed up to help.
During a struggle, both Capano and the suspect were shot and killed. In the chaos and danger, one or both opened fire and Capano may have died from their friendly fire though it’s still unclear who fired the fatal shots.
Police are conducting ballistics tests and interviews as part of their investigation.
“We all feel so very, very bad and shocked by what happened to John, especially after the death of his mom just about two weeks ago,” family pastor Father Bob Hayden told CBS 2′s Tony Aiello.
McGoey had reportedly just gotten out of prison in August after being convicted of robbing three pharmacies since 1990. On Monday afternoon, police also released a mugshot of McGoey.
Capano, who lived in Massapequa, leaves behind a wife and two teenage children.
A funeral will be held Friday for Capano, just 16 days after services for his mother were held at the very same church.
Family members said Capano died the same way he lived – trying to make the world a safer place.
“He was always helping somebody, never walked away from anything,” his father said.
Capano was a 23-year veteran of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives who taught U.S. military and local forces in Afghanistan and Iraq how to investigate blasts.
Retired NYPD Detective Charlie Haase hopes the shooting is a wake-up call and that regional law enforcement agencies need a protocol to avoid such tragedies. In march, Gregory Breitkopf, another off-duty cop, was killed by friendly fire at a crime scene in Massapequa Park.
“One shooting is too many. Two is way too many, and if the departments can get together and get some type of a procedure, it will definitely save lives,” Haase said.
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