We have followed the case of Operation Fast and Furious for months, demanding answers from the Department of Justice and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms.  Both agencies and the Obama administration have been less than forthcoming about the program that sent thousands of weapons over the border, resulting in hundreds of murder victims in Mexico and the slaying of Border Patrol agent Brian Terry in the US.  That doesn’t mean that the vast majority of agents who work for the ATF are not conscientious about their work and dedicated to enforcing the law and making us all safer.  On New Year’s Eve, one off-duty ATF agent made the ultimate sacrifice while trying — and succeeding — to stop an armed robbery in his community:

John Capano, 51, an off-duty agent with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, was at Charlie’s Family Pharmacy in Seaford, L.I., Saturday, fetching cancer medicine for his elderly father.

James McGoey, 43, burst through the front door and announced a robbery with a realistic-looking black and silver pellet gun in his waistband.

After McGoey swiped cash and prescription drugs, Capano followed him to the exit and yelled, “Police, stop!” sources said.

As the thief looked to be reaching for his gun, Capano shot him, police said.

While Capano tried to subdue him, retired Nassau County Police Lt. Chris Garaghty, 54, and off-duty NYPD Officer Joe Abria, 29, ran in to help — guns drawn. As Garaghty tried to pull Capano away, a gun fired and hit the AFT agent, sources said.

In another tragic dimension to this case, it appears that Garaghty accidentally fired the shot that killed Capano in his own attempt to assist in the crime.

Newsday has a photo essay of the memorial for Capano this week, and tells more about Capano’s life of service:

A senior special agent, Capano was in his 24th year with the ATF and was assigned to the New York Field Division’s Long Island Field Office, the release said. He was a member of the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association and the International Association of Bomb Technicians and Investigators.

Capano also worked with the ATF’s Peer Support Team, volunteering to help law enforcement officers and their family members work through crisis situations.

Before being hired by the ATF, Capano was an investigator with the New York State Department of Law, Office of Attorney General. He went to Seaford High School and was a graduate of the C.W. Post Campus of Long Island University, where he was a criminal justice major and a member of the National Criminal Justice Honor Society.

Capano, an explosives specialist, also “hosted numerous explosives related training courses” for law enforcement officers, the release said.

He “was no stranger to dangerous assignments” and in August 2007 went to Bogota, Colombia, “where he provided post blast investigation and advanced explosives destruction techniques training to Colombian law enforcement officers as well as officers from Argentina, Brazil, Costa Rica, Panama and Paraguay.”

In April 2008, Capano went to Iraq for a 90-day mission with the Law and Order Task Force at a base just outside the International Zone in Baghdad. In Iraq, “he worked with civilian and military Coalition Forces to train and mentor Iraqi police in support of the LAOTF mission to build Iraqi capacity for independent, evidence-based, transparent investigations and to expand the rule of civilian law in Iraq,” according to the release.

In May 2010, Capano volunteered for a 30-day assignment to Afghanistan, where he staged several “explosives related training courses to U.S. and coalition forces, members of the Afghan National Army and the Afghan National Police.”

Rep. Peter King (R-NY) e-mailed his press list this morning to get out the news of a memorial fund established this week to assist Capano’s family:

Last weekend Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives Agent John Capano was killed while heroically attempting to thwart a robbery in a pharmacy in Seaford, NY.

To help with his two children’s education expenses as well as necessary family financial obligations a memorial fund has been set-up in his memory.

John was an outstanding man and his family will miss him greatly.

Send all donations to the FDAF, 380 North Broadway, Suite 203, Jericho, NY 11753.

You can read more about the Federal Drug Agents Foundation at their website.  If you have some cash to assist the family after the holidays, please consider donating in the memory of a true American hero.