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Suspect, police K-9 shot during NJ pursuit

The suspect was fleeing when he turned and shot the K-9, and police returned fire, striking the suspect twice

By Lynda Cohen
The Press of Atlantic City

EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP, N.J. — A convicted killer and a police dog were wounded by gunfire Thursday afternoon during a manhunt in the township's West Atlantic City section.

Donald Capriotti, 39, was wanted on warrants out of Atlantic City when his car was pulled over near the Travelodge on the Black Horse Pike.

"He was believed to be armed," said Peter Aseltine, of the Attorney General's Office. "He bailed out of the car and fled."

As officers from Atlantic City, Egg Harbor Township and State Police searched for him, shots were fired. A dog from the police K-9 unit was struck, and Capriotti was shot multiple times by police.

Ashley Dearborn, 24, of Margate, said she was walking along the road about 2:30 p.m. when police pulled over a silver Jaguar. She said the driver fled into the marshes near a residential development. Police with a K-9 pursued him.

"As soon as the dog got to him, he shot, and the police shot back," Dearborn said.

Both Capriotti and the dog were taken into surgery. Capriotti was in critical condition, Aseltine said.

The dog, Shooter, was transferred to the Red Bank Veterinary Hospital in Tinton Falls. His handler is Lt. Mike Bordonaro.

The police-involved shooting was being investigated by the Attorney General's Office, the Division of Criminal Justice and State Police Major Crimes Unit.

Capriotti, who is also known as Gardner, was paroled in May 2012 after serving almost 19 years of a 30-year sentence in the killing of his friend Devon Whitehead when both were 19. Capriotti pleaded guilty to aggravated manslaughter in the killing of the Pleasantville man, saying he made a "human mistake" when he shot his "good friend" in the head about 10:30 a.m. June 12, 1993, and left him in bushes in the Thompson Avenue gravel pit. Capriotti allegedly told investigators he was angry after two people told him Whitehead had said bad things about him.

Capriotti was arrested twice this year, both times with his wife, Chinyere Onuba-Gardner, 32. On Thursday, she was taken into police custody, but no further details were available.

In January, the two were arrested at Capriotti's Robin Road home in the township's Cardiff section. Police said they found about $6,000 worth of crack cocaine, a half-ounce of marijuana, a 12-gauge sawed-off shotgun with 13 rounds of ammunition, a Tech-9 semiautomatic assault rifle also with 13 rounds of ammunition and a high-capacity magazine.

Capriotti was charged with first-degree drug possession, which carries a possible sentence of 10 to 20 years in prison, along with drug and weapons offenses.

His bail was set at $250,000 cash, which he was able to pay, court records show. He had not missed any previous court dates.

Capriotti and Onuba-Gardner were again arrested in July, after allegedly attacking a man inside a township motel the month before.
The man, whose name was not released, was pistol-whipped, hit with a baseball bat and stabbed with a machete inside the Courtesy Inn in Farmington, according to the report.

The U.S. Marshal's Task Force arrested them July 11 at a motel on North Albany Avenue.
Capriotti again made bail.

His wife also has served time for manslaughter. She served a seven-year sentence for the 2002 death of her 5-month-old son.

Copyright 2013 The Press of Atlantic City

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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