Ex-deputy focus of investigation

A former Richmond County sheriff's deputy who left the department amid controversy in 2003 is being investigated on accusations that he entered the department's training center and took four children on a joyride in a squad car.

Sheriff Ronnie Strength confirmed Wednesday that his office is investigating former deputy Nicholas Capobianco, who is believed to have entered the facility Aug. 31. The sheriff said officers also have been in contact with Hephzibah Police Officer Dwayne Flowers, who was at the facility and claims that when he arrived Mr. Capobianco was already inside.

The stepmother of three of the children, Jane Ricci, said all but one of the children were put in a police vehicle and driven around the track. She claims that Mr. Capobianco did traffic maneuvers in the vehicle -- making it ride on two wheels and even spinning 360 degrees.

Some of the children have claimed that Mr. Capobianco first tried to use a plastic card to unlock the door to the center, then pried open the door with a piece of metal.

"We are definitely looking into it, but the only thing I know right now is what they (the family members) say," the sheriff said. "They say they got their information from the kids."

A trail of controversy seemed to follow Mr. Capobianco until he quit the sheriff's office in June 2003.

He was acquitted by a federal grand jury after being accused of using excessive force in the fatal shooting of 29-year-old Alfaigo Davis in 1998. Mr. Davis was shot 10 times by Mr. Capobianco and another deputy after he fled from them to a cul-de-sac on Jonathan Court in south Augusta.

In April 2001, Mr. Capobianco was suspended and later placed on probation for not turning in a Masters Tournament badge he found while working off-duty security at a nightclub. Three months later, he accidentally shot and seriously injured a fellow deputy during a school-shooting training exercise at the same facility he is accused of breaking into last month.

Ms. Ricci is married to Louis Ricci, the father of three of the children. Their mother -- his ex-wife -- is married to Mr. Capobianco, who they allege brought the children to Augusta from their home in Destin, Fla.

Mr. Capobianco's biological daughter is also believed to have been present.

Sheriff Strength said that if the allegations prove true Mr. Capobianco could face criminal trespass charges. There are no security cameras on the training facility property, but an investigator lives on the property and periodically patrols it, he said.

Reach Adam Folk at (706) 823-3339 or adam.folk@augustachronicle.com.

TIME LINE

February 1998: Alfaigo Davis, 29, is shot to death by Deputy Capobianco and Deputy Gary Clark Jr. after a chase.

January 1999: Deputy Capobianco and Deputy Clark are cleared of any wrongdoing in the shooting.

April 2001: Deputy Capobianco is suspended for not turning in a Masters badge he found while working off-duty security at a local nightclub. He later gave the badge to a friend, who used it to get into the tournament.

July 2001: He accidentally shoots a fellow deputy during a training exercise. The deputy is hit with a blank from a 12-gauge shotgun and is injured in the leg.

January 2003: He becomes co-owner of a teen club on Reynolds Street called Industry. The club is marred by violence, including a bloody attack on a teen with a brick in the parking lot.

June 2003: Deputy Capobianco resigns from the Richmond County Sheriff's Office.

August 2008: Deputy Capobianco is accused of breaking into the sheriff's training center.

September 2008: An internal affairs investigation is opened.

Source: The Augusta Chronicle archives