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Hernando sheriff reveals details of fatal shootout in Spring Hill

Hernando sheriff’s deputies converge on the 5300 block of Joyner Avenue in Spring Hill, where an armed Robert Capkovic barricaded himself in his home Monday, causing a six-hour standoff.

WILL VRAGOVIC | Times

Hernando sheriff’s deputies converge on the 5300 block of Joyner Avenue in Spring Hill, where an armed Robert Capkovic barricaded himself in his home Monday, causing a six-hour standoff.

SPRING HILL — They tried to reach the man by phone to no avail. They tried to force him out by filling his home with a dozen containers of tear gas and pepper gas.

But when Hernando deputies saw no signs of movement inside the home about 9 p.m. Monday, they wondered if Robert Capkovic had followed through on an earlier vow to kill himself. So for the second time that day, they went in.

When the SWAT team members reached a bathroom, they found Capkovic, still armed with a rifle. Within minutes, one deputy was wounded and Capkovic, 62, was dead, Sheriff Richard Nugent said Tuesday as he detailed the actions of the nearly six-hour standoff outside Capkovic's home at 5351 Joyner Ave.

Deputy Lance Origon, 31, was shot in the forearm and taken to Spring Hill Regional Hospital. He was released from the hospital Tuesday morning and was resting at home.

Origon and Deputy Tom Valdez III, 35, who was also involved in the shooting, were placed on administrative leave, which is standard practice with officer-involved shootings.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement has begun an investigation, which is also standard practice, said Kristen Perezluha, a spokeswoman for the FDLE.

Origon was the fourth Hernando deputy to be shot, and the first in 20 years, according to a sheriff's spokeswoman.

Nugent explained that deputies went to the nearly 2,000-square-foot home about 3:30 p.m. Monday after a Bank of America employee asked the Sheriff's Office to check on Capkovic.

In early July, Capkovic wrote a letter to the bank saying he would kill himself if the bank tried to foreclose on the house where the shootout occurred.

Nugent said two deputies knocked on every door of Capkovic's house and checked with neighbors shortly after arriving Monday. When no one answered, the deputies opened a window, slipped inside and announced their presence.

The deputies opened the door to the home's master bedroom, and Capkovic burst out of the bathroom carrying a rifle. He fired a shot, the sheriff said.

"He said they were not going to evict him from his house," Nugent said, "and the deputies said they weren't there to evict him."

Capkovic shot twice more at the deputies, who did not return fire. No one was injured and the deputies then left the house.

Over the next few hours, deputies repeatedly tried to make contact with Capkovic. They used a public address system, they put a phone into a bag and threw it into the home, and they even had the phone company reactivate the line in the home.

None of it worked.

"The last time we saw any real movement in the home was at 4:30," Nugent said. "We could not hear him at all in the home."

About 8:45 p.m., deputies decided to respond. The SWAT team lobbed a dozen rounds of chemical agents into the house, Nugent said. Still, nothing.

Deputies went inside about 9 p.m. This time, they found Capkovic barricaded inside the master bathroom. When they got the door open, Capkovic shot and hit Origon in his forearm with birdshot. The deputies returned fire, mortally wounding Capkovic.

"He made the choice to try to kill deputies," Nugent said. "We don't pick the circumstances for the fight. The bad guys do."

Capkovic had no criminal record, and the Sheriff's Office had not been out to the home previously.

Capkovic's 85-year-old mother, Anna, reached by phone in Allentown, Pa., said she and her son had a falling out when he was 29 and hadn't spoken since.

"I don't even know what he was like anymore," she said. "I haven't seen him in 33 years."

According to public records, Capkovic moved into the Joyner Avenue two-bedroom home with his wife, Christine, in February 1998. Capkovic struggled to pay his mortgage in recent months, with relatives and others noting the troubles really started when Christine died of a heart attack in May 2008.

Rick Simon, a spokesman for Bank of America home loans, said Capkovic's home was in "the very earliest stage of foreclosure."

"There were several options that we were working to explore with him before the property would have been sold,'' Simon said in a statement. "In fact, Bank of America had sent a letter in June offering consideration of a mortgage modification under the government's Home Affordable Modification program. Regretfully, Mr. Capkovic had not responded to that letter."

Simon also said Capkovic's letter to the bank didn't make an explicit threat to himself or others.

"We fully understand the stress many customers face in these challenging economic times," Simon said. "Nevertheless, it is uncommon that we receive communications threatening violence. … When the three-page letter was fully reviewed by a home retention associate, the overall tone of the letter raised concern."

Brother-in-law Tim Maitski of Atlanta said Capkovic hadn't held a steady job since he and Christine married in 1973. Her salary from secretarial work was the couple's main source of income.

Capkovic augmented their income by bartending part time and selling wholesale goods for a small profit at the Webster Flea Market in Sumter County, Maitski said.

"They'd always been on the edge, they'd always battled with bill collectors calling," Maitski said. "It had always been a real struggle for them."

Capkovic sent a series of letters to Christine's mother over the last two years, Maitski said. The letters detailed how miserable he was after Christine died. Sooner or later, the letters said, he would shoot himself.

Neighbor Lou Martel, 72, said he'd interacted with Capkovic only twice: once when Capkovic asked him about garbage pickup not long after he moved in. The second when he came to their door holding a stray cat.

"He said he couldn't care for it himself but wondered if we could give it a home," said Martel, who did not take the cat. "We hadn't talked to him since."

Joel Anderson can be reached at joelanderson@sptimes.com or (352) 754-6120. Laura J. Nelson can be reached at lnelson@sptimes.com or (352) 848-1432.

Hernando sheriff reveals details of fatal shootout in Spring Hill 08/03/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, August 4, 2010 7:58pm]

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