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Capano 'did the right thing,' says friend

An undated photo released by the U.S. Department

An undated photo released by the U.S. Department of Justice shows Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms Special Agent John Capano. Capano was shot dead in the aftermath of a pharmacy robbery in Seaford on Dec. 31, 2011. Photo Credit: AP

Friends of ATF agent John Capano, at the second day of his wake Thursday, described a law officer who spoke frequently about his family.

"John always did the right thing," said Steve Beggs, a special agent in the Denver office of the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and a friend of Capano's since meeting him in the agency's academy in 1988.

Beggs was one of hundreds who stopped in for the wake at the Charles G. Schmitt Funeral Home in Seaford, just two blocks from the pharmacy where Capano was gunned down Saturday.

Doing the right thing, Beggs said, certainly meant trying to intervene when Capano, 51, of Massapequa, came across a robbery in progress at Charlie's Family Pharmacy, where he was picking up medicine for his father. Law enforcement sources have said the shot that killed Capano likely came from the gun of a retired Nassau police lieutenant, who, along with a New York City police officer, found Capano struggling for a gun with James McGoey, 43, of Hampton Bays.

Beggs said Capano did the right thing in other ways, "Agents spend a lot of time on the road and away from their families," Beggs said. "It's easy to become distracted or have other priorities." But, Beggs added, for Capano, "Family was always first."

Outside the pharmacy where Capano was killed, American flags and bouquets of flowers sat on the sidewalk alongside handwritten messages including "Rest in Peace John Capano. A true hero through and through."

Special Agent Gerry O'Sullivan, who became a close friend of Capano's when they worked together on cases, said Capano would come to Buffalo occasionally to work on investigations. "He'd be on the phone every night talking to his kids and his wife," O'Sullivan said.

Beggs said Capano, an explosives expert, pushed hard to be sent to Afghanistan and Iraq on several missions to train local police forces and the U.S. military on the latest investigative techniques. "He felt it was the least he could do," Beggs said.

Beggs and O'Sullivan were among the hundreds who walked grimly into the funeral home Thursday and Wednesday. Inside, they walked past digital screens flashing images of Capano. Many showed him with family, carving a turkey in one shot or sitting with a small child on his lap in another.

That Capano would intervene in the robbery wasn't surprising to Beggs. "He didn't back down," Beggs said, recalling an incident during the academy when the two were playing pool in a bar. Capano had laid down his quarters on a pool table to claim the next game, when a man took the quarters.

"John said, 'Those were mine,' and the guy goes, 'They're mine now.' He [the other man] was a steroid case, about twice as big as John. But eventually he [the other man] backed down. Even if it was 50 cents, John just believed in the right thing."

Capano's funeral Mass will be celebrated 11 a.m. Friday at St. William the Abbot Roman Catholic Church in Seaford, followed by burial at St. Charles Cemetery in East Farmingdale.

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