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Department of Justice

U.S. Attorney's Office
Eastern District of New York

For Immediate Release

Friday, February 13, 2015
Loretta E. Lynch
, United States Attorney
Contact: Nellin McIntosh

Vice President Biden and Attorney General Holder Honor Fallen Senior Special Agent John Francis Capano and Former Chief John Curly with Medal of Valor

At a ceremony earlier this week in Washington, Vice President Joe Biden and Attorney General Eric Holder awarded the Public Safety Officer Medal of Valor to several individuals, including fallen Senior Special Agent John Francis Capano, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and former Chief John Curly, Bellmore Fire Department, who exhibited exceptional courage in saving and protecting others and whose heroic actions were above and beyond the call of duty.

Agent Capano received the award for his heroic actions Dec. 31, 2011, during an armed robbery attempt at Charlie’s Family Pharmacy in Seaford, N.Y., by a convicted felon who had recently been released from prison. Agent Capano, who was off duty at the time, confronted the suspect, chased him outside, and engaged in a physical struggle for his gun. An off-duty New York City police officer and a retired Nassau County police officer also responded to the scene. Special Agent Capano was struck by a bullet to his chest and was later pronounced dead at an area hospital. The suspect was also shot and died at the scene.

On Nov. 12, 2012, the Bellmore Fire Department was alerted to a house fire with a victim trapped inside. Former Chief Curley (who remains a member of the Bellmore Fire Department) and his son, in a fire department pick-up truck nearby, heard the call and were first on the scene. A man in the driveway said his elderly mother was trapped in a second-floor bedroom. With no fire vehicles on the scene, former Chief Curley used a file cabinet topped by an old broken wooden ladder to climb to the bedroom window, breaking it with his bare hands, which exposed him to heavy black smoke billowing from the room. Because the first responders had not yet arrived, he was without the protection of a hose line, breathing apparatus, or protective gear. Nevertheless, former Chief Curley entered the room knowing that he had only a few seconds before it would be totally engulfed in fire. Once inside, he found the woman lying unconscious inside the room. Former Chief Curley moved the woman to the window, lifted her out onto the wooden ladder, carried her, and passed her down to his waiting son, who began to give her medical attention. During the rescue, former Chief Curley suffered lacerations to his hands and face, taking actions at extreme risks to his personal safety, which directly resulted in saving the life of the trapped woman.

United States Attorney Lynch stated, “Agent Capano and former Chief Curly are shining examples of the selflessness and dedication of all our public safety officers, who risk all every day to protect us. They stand shoulder to shoulder with the other heroes honored in this ceremony. We honor them and we thank them.”

Attorney General Holder added, “These are all exceptional individuals. Every one of them deserves our deepest gratitude and boundless respect. Yet even among the outstanding field of public servants who perform these critical responsibilities, day in and day out – in communities across the country – there are some who stand out. And, with these prestigious medals, we recognize these exceptional few for extraordinary valor – above and beyond the call of duty.”

The Public Safety Officer Medal of Valor, authorized by the Public Safety Officer Medal of Valor Act of 2001, is the highest national award for valor presented to a public safety officer. The medal is awarded to public safety officers who have exhibited exceptional courage, regardless of personal safety, in the attempt to save or protect human life. A total of 95 medals have been presented since the first recipients were honored in 2003.

The Medal of Valor is awarded by the President of the United States, or his designee, to public safety officers cited by the Attorney General. Public safety officers are nominated by the chiefs or directors of their employing agencies and recommended by the Medal of Valor Review Board. The Attorney General has designated the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Justice Programs (OJP) to serve as the federal point of contact for the Public Safety Medal of Valor.

More information about the award, the Medal of Valor Review Board members, and the nomination process is available at www.ojp.usdoj.gov/medalofvalor.

Field Division: New York Field Division