Colleagues and friends of John Capano remembered the veteran ATF agent as a fearless protector, a "solid-as-a-rock" professional who did not hesitate to put his life on the line for others.
At a wake for him Wednesday and at a gathering near the Long Island field office of the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, co-workers and friends praised Capano for his public service.
"His efforts in law enforcement protection and serving the public are tremendous," said Joseph Anarumo, special agent in charge of the ATF's New York Field Division. "It was part of his life. It was in him."
Anarumo, who was among hundreds of mourners during the day, called Capano a "true crime-fighter, a peacekeeper."
Two large white U.S. Justice Department trucks with ATF logos were parked outside the funeral home on Merrick Road with their red and blue lights flashing throughout the evening. Eric Immesberger, head of the Long Island ATF office in Melville, at a separate ATF news conference on Capano's career, said, "As much as John loved the ATF -- and he loved it with a passion -- he loved his family one hundred times more."
Immesberger added, "John was as solid as a rock."
He said that shortly before Capano was killed, he was planning to take a personal leave and had intended to name Capano as acting head of the office.
Immesberger said that when he heard about the shooting, he raced to the hospital, but Capano had died.
"John was gone," he said. "But I can tell you that I held his shoulder and I promised that we are going to take care of his family."
Capano, 51, of Massapequa, was at the pharmacy picking up a prescription for his father when the robbery unfolded on New Year's Eve.
Police said McGoey, who had served two 10-year prison terms for robbing pharmacies for prescription drugs, held up the store with a pellet gun.
But as he tried to get away with cash and prescription painkillers, Capano confronted him, law enforcement sources said.
Capano shot and wounded McGoey in the leg and the struggle spilled out the doorway just as a retired Nassau police lieutenant and an off-duty NYPD officer arrived, after being alerted to the robbery.
Law enforcement sources have said that the shot that killed Capano likely came from the gun of the retired Nassau police lieutenant. The NYPD officer shot and killed McGoey, according to sources.
Directly across from the Charles G. Schmitt Funeral Home in Seaford, five members of Patrol Guard Riders stood at attention in subfreezing temperatures, each holding an 8-foot metal flagpole.
Eddy Esposito, 47, of Wantagh, a regional leader, said, "We show honor to the people who protect us."
He said he went to the same high school as Capano. "So, I'm a little cold, but then I think of the family. Think of what they're going through."
The wake continues Thursday from 2 to 4 p.m. and 7 to 9 p.m.
With Bill Mason
and Zachary R. Dowdy