The bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives on Friday blamed the death of its agent John Capano on the "career criminal" whose drugstore robbery catalyzed the deadly confrontation.

Capano, 51, was shot dead in a moment of confusion on New Year's Eve by a retired Nassau police lieutenant as Capano wrestled with the robber, James McGoey, outside the just-robbed Charlie's Family Pharmacy, sources briefed on the investigation say.

"Ultimately the responsibility for the tragic events that occurred on Dec. 31, 2011, lies with the career criminal who chose to resume his life of crime," said Joseph Anarumo, the bureau's special agent in charge of the New York field division.

Moments before the mayhem, investigators said, McGoey held up the Seaford pharmacy. Capano, who was off duty, was trying to nab him. The retired lieutenant, Christopher Geraghty, 54, owns a deli a few storefronts away and off-duty NYPD cop Joseph Arbia was eating lunch when a woman alerted the men about the pharmacy robbery. Geraghty and Arbia ran outside and soon came upon the struggle.

That's when Geraghty shot Capano dead as Capano and McGoey fought over the agent's .40-caliber gun, which fired in the struggle and sent a bullet flying past Geraghty. Geraghty's attorney, Brian J. Davis, has said Geraghty wasn't sure who the "good guy" was when he fired in response. McGoey then tried to grab Capano's gun, and Arbia, 29, shot McGoey dead.

Arbia is on desk duty while the NYPD conducts a routine review of the shooting, according to a law-enforcement source. Such reviews are standard anytime a cop discharges his weapon, on or off duty.

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An attorney for Arbia, Stephen Worth, declined to comment, as did Nassau police spokesman Deputy Insp. Kenneth Lack.

With Anthony M. DeStefano and Ann Givens