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Tampa police shoot Tampa robbery suspect

TAMPA — The two visits seemed like morning errands: order two sandwiches from Subway and stop by Bank of America to open an account.

But Tampa police said both stops were precursors to robberies, and the rampage ended after police shot a suspect Thursday afternoon near a homeless camp at E 21st Avenue and N 56th Street.

Steven Caponi, 45, was flown to Tampa General Hospital, where he was in serious but stable condition Thursday evening, said Laura McElroy, a police spokeswoman.

Police said a man walked into Subway, 1701 N 50th St., at 8:22 a.m. and ordered two sandwiches. But instead of paying at the register, he demanded money and claimed he had a gun.

The clerk saw something bulky under his shirt and gave him the money, McElroy explained.

Then, at 10 a.m., a man walked into Bank of America at 5002 E 10th Ave. and asked questions about opening an account, she said. A little over an hour later, he returned saying he wanted to actually open an account. He handed the bank employee a pamphlet he'd taken on the first visit with a note inside that said he was armed and demanded a large amount of money.

"He said, 'Stay calm and no one will get hurt,' " McElroy said.

The employee walked to a secure area where tellers are, as if going to get the money, and the robber began pacing the lobby. He was trying to open the door to the tellers' area when another employee approached him. He pushed the employee and they got into a shoving match. Then he ran from the bank.

Police believed a suspect might be at a wooded area near E 21st Avenue and N 56th Street and caught up with him about 1 p.m.

As it turned out, a probation officer was already in the area looking for Caponi, who had recently cut off his Global Positioning System ankle monitor, McElroy said.

Police and the probation officer soon realized they were looking for the same person.

Officers Joe Beckers and Ray Wurst walked into the heavily wooded area and confronted the suspect.

McElroy said the officers asked Caponi to show his hands, but he made a jerking motion toward his waist. Fearing he was reaching for a gun, both officers shot at him, hitting him at least one time. Police are investigating and had not determined which officer shot Caponi.

Police did not find a gun on Caponi, although a dive team found the GPS device in a lake near the homeless camp. Authorities are still searching for other evidence linking him to the robberies.

Later in the day, witnesses identified Caponi as the robber, McElroy said.

Beckers, 48, and Wurst, 36, have been placed on paid administrative leave, which is standard in shooting investigations.

Caponi, whose probation was scheduled to end June 28, had not been charged in the robberies Thursday evening, although McElroy said charges were pending.

Tampa police shoot Tampa robbery suspect 04/29/10 [Last modified: Thursday, April 29, 2010 9:46pm]
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