Thousands of federal agents, some who came from as far away as Denver and California, descended on Seaford Friday to say their final goodbyes to John Capano, the ATF agent who was killed by friendly fire while trying to stop a pharmacy robbery on New Year’s Eve.
Capano’s 18-year-old son, John, wrapped an arm around his sister, Natalie, 15, as the family exited their vehicle, which trailed behind the silver hearse that carried their father’s brown casket to St. William the Abbot Roman Catholic Church on Jackson Avenue, a short distance from where he died. The fallen ATF agent’s father stood by Capano’s widow, Dori, as the two looked on under a cool sky as officers approached the hearse.
In a heartfelt letter written by Natalie inside the funeral mass’ program, she said her family felt safer knowing that her dad was by their side.
“It wasn’t just the final act that made my Dad a hero,” she wrote, “it was everything he did throughout his life.”
Capano touched people from across the country and around the world, members of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosive said. One Italian man called the ATF’s New York Division after learning of Capano’s death to offer his condolences and to make sure people know how wide the agent’s reach was, agents said.
And law enforcement officers came out in droves to pay their respects to man who died while out running an errand for his father. A sea of agents lining Jackson Avenue stretched all the way to Merrick Road. A massive flag gently waved in the air as the hearse slowly approached the church.
Attorney General Eric Holder was on hand, as was Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford), who had a relationship with the fallen agent.
Inside the church, Capano’s older brother, James, said his family was “humbled” by the show of support, and called his brother an unselfish member of the family who supported everybody while their mother was ill before she died last month.
“I see friends, family, but most of all I see relatives,” said James. “After all, are we not all related by being here sharing our love for John?”
He added: “Let us not forget others responded that day to stop a crime. Please remember they have family and acted as John did, however this turns out, I ask that we pray for them too.”
John Capano’s brother’s remarks at funeral:
Two other men ran from a nearby deli to the pharmacy to confront the robber. A retired Nassau County cop fired the gunshot that killed Capano.
Just a month ago, the family held a funeral service at the same church for Capano’s mother who died in mid-December.
“Today, it is especially moving—and inspiring—to see how this community has rallied around the Capano family once again, in this moment of unspeakable tragedy, as we mourn the sudden and untimely loss of one of Seaford’s favorite sons,” Holder told mourners inside the church.
“It’s really hard to be here today,” said Capano’s friend of 15 years and fellow ATF agent Gerry O’Sullivan. “It hurts.”
O’Sullivan, who works out of the Buffalo field office, said he and John would work together on explosive missions. When O’Sullivan would visit Capano and his family, he would bring his K-9 dogs along, and the two agents would watch and smile as the kids played with the dogs.
“I’m still in shock,” he said. “I’m still trying to figure all this out. It’s just very difficult and I’m going to be in shock for a long time. John has a great family, great kids and I just feel very bad for them.”
After the service, eight helicopters flew overhead as officers lifted Capano’s casket and placed into the hearse to be driven to his final resting place.
Natalie wrote in her letter: “Mom gave him someone to fight for and someone to love. Dad was a hero to our entire family, because he loved us infinitely and always put smiles on our faces.”