Cops ID James McGoey as suspect in Seaford pharmacy case

Rep. Peter King and others pay tribute to the slain ATF agent from Massapequa who was killed during a Seaford pharmacy robbery. Videojournalists: Jim Staubitser and Ed Betz (Jan. 1, 2012)

A recently paroled ex-con, twice imprisoned for prescription-drug robberies, was identified by police Sunday as the man whose holdup of a Seaford pharmacy ended in the shooting death of an off-duty federal law enforcement agent.

Nassau police, joined by the FBI and Nassau prosecutors, were interviewing witnesses, reviewing surveillance video and running ballistics tests to sort out who fired the shots that killed John Capano, 51, of Massapequa, an off-duty senior agent of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

Law enforcement sources said a retired Nassau police lieutenant and an off-duty NYPD officer, who approached the robbery scene New Year's Eve separately from Capano, fired their weapons.

The robber "came out of the store and that's when the shooting emerged," said a Nassau police spokesman, Det. Lt. Kevin Smith. "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," Smith said.

Capano, married and a father of a son in college and a daughter in high school, had gone to Charlie's Family Pharmacy on Merrick Road to pick up prescription medicine for his father, James Capano, 82, and came upon the robbery. The elder Capano, a retired New York City police officer, called his son "an excellent person, the best" who "never walked away from anything."

Police Sunday identified the suspected robber as James McGoey, 43, of Hampton Bays, who was shot and killed at the scene.

McGoey left the pharmacy with 300 tabs of oxycodone, the highly addictive prescription painkiller, possibly another narcotic called Opana, and cash, law enforcement sources said. The weapon he displayed appeared to be an air pistol, according to preliminary reports, a law enforcement source said.

In 1990 and 2000, when he was arrested for robbing Setauket-area pharmacies and other stores at gunpoint, McGoey's drug of choice was Valium, according to news reports. He was convicted of robbery and served a total of 20 years behind bars, state records show.

In the latter case, he was paroled from Attica Correctional Facility in August after serving a 10-year prison sentence.

A law enforcement source who asked not to be identified said McGoey entered the store Saturday demanding the prescription drug Opana, a narcotic similar to morphine, and "all the cash in the register," telling the clerk, "I need the pills." A gun was visible in McGoey's waistband, the source said.

 

Confusion over shots fired

Accounts from various sources differed on what happened next. Capano, entering the store from the back, saw McGoey and ordered him to drop his weapon, one source said. But another said Capano was already in the store when the robbery was announced and pursued the suspect as he was leaving.

While the robbery was in progress, a bystander went to a nearby deli, where the NYPD officer and retired Nassau police lieutenant were alerted and rushed to the scene. Each discharged his weapon, the source said. Both guns were turned over to Nassau police for ballistics tests, a source said.

Another source said a shot or shots from the NYPD officer killed McGoey. Who shot Capano remains unclear.

ATF and the Nassau County district attorney's office are also involved in the investigation. Autopsies were conducted to aid in the probe.

A shaken Charles Joseph Laquidara, 48, the pharmacy's owner, who had known the ATF agent since the 1980s, said, "All I want to say is that John Capano is a hero." Laquidara was not at the pharmacy during the robbery and declined to discuss its details.

 

'Tough and courageous'

Neighbors, colleagues and family members described Capano, an explosives expert who completed training tours in Afghanistan and Iraq, as a devoted family man, a fearless agent and a hero. Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford), who knew him, said Capano "died the way he lived -- being tough and courageous, and helping the community."

The pharmacy robbery was the latest in a wave of crimes involving prescription painkillers on Long Island and across the country.

Last June, David Laffer shot and killed four people inside a Medford pharmacy before fleeing with thousands of pain pills. Local and federal investigators have described pain pill addiction on Long Island as a crisis.

The past year was one of the most dangerous for pharmacies as robberies rose, said one pharmacy group.

"We're seeing increasing numbers of pharmacy robberies in the country," said Craig Burridge, executive director of the Pharmacists Society of the State of New York. Robberies in 2011 are expected to exceed 4,000 nationally, he said, up from 2,600 in 2010.

Phil Healey, a friend and neighbor of Capano's for 15 years in Massapequa, said neighbors are attempting to come to grips with the senselessness of Capano's death. "We were so proud of him," Healey said.

"It's confusing," he said. "A man defusing bombs in a foreign country gets killed over here."

Healey said it points to an "out-of-control" problem with prescription drugs. "Something has to be done about it."

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