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.

WCBS 880 Long Island Bureau Chief Mike Xirinachs On The Story

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.

Police said McGoey used a pellet gun similar to this one. (credit: handout)

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.

James McGoey (credit: Handout)

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.

Share your thoughts in the comments section below…

Comments (4)
  1. Joe says:

    MCgoey went to Calhoun in Merrick, that’s where he grew up. No parental supervision as a teenager .No Mom just lived with his dad.At the age of 17 he was hit in the knee cap with baseballl bat, and that is when he got hooked on the pain medication. Screwed up life and now caused the death of a innocent person.I went to school with him , at one time he was a graet guy..this is how drugs change people

  2. Nat says:

    I would like to know why off-some duty police officers carry their gun with them. I don’t mean while they’re on they’re way home from work either. It doesn’t make sense to me.

    And based on stories I have read/heard, although a crime had been committed, at the time of the shootings I don’t believe the suspect or the agent killed posed a threat to the people outside, so why did the off-duty cop “shoot to kill.”

    Just my thoughts.

  3. to Martinez says:

    to Martinez, you obviously did not understand the article:……………………………………….” During a struggle, both Capano and the suspect were shot and killed.”
    Killed means he died. Mc Goey is DEAD. So he will be burning in hell for ever.

  4. Martinez says:

    I am sure McGoey would likely get 3 years behind bar simply because he is white.

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