Mourners packed a church and lined the streets for the funeral of an ATF agent who was killed in a "friendly fire" shooting while trying to stop a robbery at a Long Island pharmacy.
A silver hearse carried the body of slain special agent John Capano to a church in Seaford Friday, as thousands of law enforcement officers stood at attention. Pipers played "Amazing Grace" as the casket was carried into the chapel.
Attorney General Eric Holder spoke at the service. He called Capano "a true patriot" who possessed "extraordinary courage."
As an ATF senior special agent, Capano traveled the world, from Afghanistan to Iraq, Peru to Paraguay, sharing his expertise investigating the aftermath of bombings.
The 51-year-old father of two died in his hometown on Long Island on New Year's Eve. He became the first agent for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to be killed by gunfire in the line of duty since the infamous raid on a religious cult compound in Waco, Texas, in 1993.
Capano, who grew up in Seaford and lived in nearby Massapequa, was filling a prescription for his cancer-stricken father last Saturday when a man carrying what turned out to be a pellet gun announced a robbery in a Seaford pharmacy. Capano followed the suspect out the door where they struggled for Capano's weapon in a skirmish on the sidewalk.
A retired Nassau County police lieutenant who owns a deli three doors down, and an off-duty NYPD officer eating at the deli, raced to the scene. The attorney for the retired lieutenant said in an interview Thursday that his client, 54-year-old Christopher Geraghty, opened fire after a shot whizzed past him, mistakenly thinking that Capano was the robbery suspect.
Moments later, the NYPD officer shot and killed the hold-up man, later identified as a career criminal with a history of pharmacy robberies.
"He's devastated," attorney Brian Davis said of Geraghty. He said he is aware the Capano family does not blame him for the tragic outcome, and has sent a note of condolence, but said the shooting "will be with him for the rest of his life."
A spokesman for the ATF said Thursday that although Capano was not scheduled to be working that day — he was on bereavement leave because his mother had died in mid-December — his death is still considered to have happened in the line of duty.
Spokesman Steven Bartholomew said that when Capano took action to stop the robbery in progress, he was acting as an ATF agent.
The shooting was the second friendly fire incident in Nassau County in the last year. A Nassau police officer in plainclothes was shot to death in March by a transit authority officer in Massapequa Park.
It was the second deadly holdup in a pharmacy on Long Island in 2011. In June, a gunman killed two store employees and two customers before fleeing with a backpack filled with painkillers.