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Slain Spring Hill gunman described as a study in contrasts

A Hernando County Sheriff’s Office patrol car and forensic vans sit parked at 5351 Joyner Ave. in Spring Hill on Tuesday. The house is the scene of a shooting where a man barricaded himself inside and was killed during an exchange of gunfire with deputies Monday. 

WILL VRAGOVIC | Times

A Hernando County Sheriff’s Office patrol car and forensic vans sit parked at 5351 Joyner Ave. in Spring Hill on Tuesday. The house is the scene of a shooting where a man barricaded himself inside and was killed during an exchange of gunfire with deputies Monday. 

SPRING HILL — Lou Martel's mailbox was 20 feet from Bob Capkovic's, but the two men checked their mail in silence.

Once, when Bob was new on the street, he stopped by to ask about garbage pick-up service. That was their first conversation. Their second — and last —was brief.

Bob had found a stray cat. Could the Martels take it in?

That was eight years ago.

Many on Joyner Avenue have similar stories about their reclusive neighbor Capkovic, 62, who was shot and killed Monday in his home at 5351 Joyner Ave. after a standoff with Hernando County Sheriff's deputies.

Neighbors and family paint a bipolar picture: an unemployed, childless loner plagued with debt, but also a widower who would help injured animals on the side of the road.

"Deep down, I don't think he was a mean, nasty person," said Capkovic's brother-in-law, Tim Maitski of Atlanta.

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

Capkovic married Christine Maitski in 1973. Tim Maitski said his brother-in-law hadn't held a steady job since they got married. Her modest salary from secretarial work was their main source of income.

After Christine died of a heart attack in 2008, Capkovic and the Maitskis stopped seeing each other.

"Bob was very angry at the world," Maitski said. "He always thought he got dealt a bad set of cards, that the world screwed him, that he deserved more than what he got."

Maitski said he wasn't surprised at how Capkovic had died. Since Maitski had known him, his brother-in-law had an obsession with the culture of the Wild West, especially classic shoot-em-ups with Henry Fonda and Clint Eastwood.

"I read the story online and though, 'Oh my God, it reminds me of those movies,' " he said.

Neighbors said they had never interacted much with Capkovic, who had lived on Joyner Avenue since 1998. He would honk his horn twice in hello and wave as he drove down the street, but mostly, he kept to himself.

They connected Capkovic, who they all called Bob, with several neighborhood stories, including a rash of flat tires.

Three neighbors said they saw Capkovic wandering through his yard in dark pants and no shirt on certain nights. The next morning, their cars had flats and their driveways were covered in roofing tacks.

"I never believed it and, then one night, I left my car parked outside overnight," Salvitore DiCristofalo of 5340 Joyner Ave. said. "What did I have the next morning? A flat tire."

DiCristofalo said he knew Christine Capkovic before he and his family moved to Joyner Avenue. As a UPS driver, he had delivered packages to AirGas on Ponce de Leon Boulevard, where she was a secretary.

"She couldn't have been friendlier," DiCristofalo said. "She and Bob were definitely two different spectrums of the world."

Heather Cunningham, 25, lives two houses down from Capkovic. She said he often petted Sadie, her 2-year-old Schnauzer-Scottie mix, and fed stray cats off his back porch. But in the 10 years she has lived on Joyner Avenue, she said she had never seen Capkovic have a visitor.

For many, the first signs of trouble came about 4:30 p.m. on Monday. Some neighbors got a call from the Sheriff's Office. There had been an incident at a nearby house, the message said. Stay inside.

Martel said a SWAT deputy came through his lanai about 20 minutes after the 911 call.

"The next thing you know, this guy in full battle regalia comes through, telling us to stay inside," Martel said. "Then he came through the back of the house."

For the next hour, Martel went to the front of his house to watch the action. He said a negotiator stayed outside Capkovic's for several hours, talking loudly to someone inside.

By 7:35 p.m., Martel had headed to a back room to turn on the Red Sox-Indians game. It was 1-0 in the third inning when the power went off.

His wife, Nancy, called the Withlacoochee River Electric Cooperative, who said the Sheriff's Office had told them to cut power to the neighborhood. Neighbors who hadn't been evacuated already lost electricity too.

Then, around 8:25 p.m., Martel said they heard gunshots.

Reporting contributed by Danny Valentine and Joel Anderson. Laura J. Nelson can be reached at lnelson@sptimes.com or (352) 848-1432.

Slain Spring Hill gunman described as a study in contrasts 08/03/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, August 4, 2010 11:49am]
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