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John Capano, slain ATF agent, to be honored by bureau

ATF Agent John Capano, who was shot dead

ATF Agent John Capano, who was shot dead in the aftermath of a pharmacy robbery in Seaford on Dec. 31, 2011, in an undated file photo provided by the U.S. Department of Justice. On the right, Nassau County police on the scene of the shooting at Charlie's Family Pharmacy in Seaford. Credit: AP and Kevin P. Coughlin

An ATF agent and an off-duty New York City police officer who brought down a suspect in a Seaford pharmacy robbery on New Year's Eve will both be honored Aug. 23 in a ceremony at ATF's national headquarters in Washington, D.C., officials said.

ATF Senior Special Agent John F. Capano, who was killed while wrestling with robbery suspect James McGoey, and his family will receive four awards from the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, including the agency's Medal of Valor, said Eric Immesberger, the resident agent in charge of the ATF's Long Island Field Office.

NYPD Officer Joseph Arbia, who was off duty at the time, and shot and killed McGoey, will be given the Jake Kuredjian Memorial Award, which recognizes a law enforcement officer who helped keep an agent safe during an operation.

"It is with great sadness and honor that John will be receiving these awards," Capano's wife, Dorea Capano, said in a statement.

Agent Capano's family, including his father, James Capano, a retired NYPD detective, will accept the awards.

In a brief phone interview, Arbia said he is extremely honored to be recognized.

"It's bittersweet," said Arbia, 29, of Seaford. "I think about Agent Capano every day, and I wish he had never had his life endangered."

The confrontation occurred Dec. 31, when Capano, 51, of Seaford, walked in on a robbery in progress at Charlie's Family Pharmacy. Capano followed McGoey out of the store and tackled him, prosecutors have said.

As the two grappled over Capano's gun, retired Nassau Police Lt. Christopher Geraghty of Woodbury, mistook Capano for the robber and fatally shot him, authorities said.

Arbia, who also happened upon the scene, then shot McGoey three times, killing him, prosecutors have said.

The Nassau County district attorney's office issued a report in July declining to file criminal charges against Geraghty or Arbia.

"It is our solemn honor to be able to present these awards," Immesberger said.

Immesberger said that in addition to the Medal of Valor, Dorea Capano and their children, John and Natalie, will accept the ATF's Hostile Action Award, recognizing an employee who comes under direct gunfire, and the Gold Star Medal, recognizing an employee who was wounded or seriously injured as a result of his ATF employment. They will also be given the ATF Memorial Award, recognizing the family of an ATF employee who is killed in the line of duty.

Capano, a 23-year ATF veteran who also went on missions for the agency in Iraq and Afghanistan, was the first agent of that agency to be killed by gunfire since the raid on a religious cult compound in Waco, Texas, in 1993.

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