By Christian Salazar
NEW YORK — An off-duty federal law enforcement agent who happened to be in a pharmacy during a holdup confronted the robber as he tried to leave with money and painkillers, and both were shot to death.
The off-duty Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives agent died after being taken to a hospital with a gunshot wound Saturday, Nassau County police Lt. Kevin Smith said.
Police said the gunman entered the pharmacy in Seaford about 2 p.m., looking for painkillers and money, and announced a holdup. As he tried to leave with what he came for, three people confronted him: the ATF agent, an off-duty city police officer and a retired police officer.
It wasn't clear what happened next or who shot either man. The off-duty police officer and the retired officer were taken to a hospital to be treated for trauma.
The agent, identified by the ATF as 51-year-old John Capano, a 23-year veteran of the agency, was a trained explosives expert who taught U.S. military and local forces in Afghanistan and Iraq how to investigate blasts, said Rory O'Connor, assistant special agent in charge in the ATF's New York office,.
"He was a veteran agent who did his job well," O'Connor said. "Even though off-duty, he felt the need to take action in an attempt to protect the public."
He lived in Massapequa and was married with two children.
The area has been struggling with a growing tide of prescription drug abuse, said Razov Felice, owner of an Italian restaurant down the street.
"There is a lot of problem in Long Island with these drugs," Felice said. "I don't know what people are thinking. The more people talk about these drugs, the more people are trying them."
Armed robberies at pharmacies in the U.S. rose 81 percent between 2006 and 2010, from 380 to 686, according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. On Father's Day, four people were gunned down by a drug addict during a pharmacy robbery about 30 miles west of the one in Seaford where Capano was killed.
His death is the latest in a string of shootings of off-duty officers in the New York area who were responding to a crime.
In May, a New York Police Department officer shot to death an off-duty colleague who was carrying a gun while chasing a suspected car thief in East Harlem.
In March, an off-duty transit authority officer shot a Nassau County police officer who was in plainclothes and carrying a rifle while both men were responding to a crime in the town of Massapequa Park.
And in 2008, Westchester County police officers killed an off-duty officer from suburban Mount Vernon while he intervened in a fight.
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Copyright 2012 Associated Press