80-year-old dead after a dispute over mask use inside New York bar

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WEST SENECA, N.Y. (WIVB)– Bar regulars are known to squabble, but a New York district attorney says a heated dispute over mask use at a bar has left one man dead and another facing a negligent homicide charge.

Erie County District Attorney John Flynn told reporters this could be the nation’s first case of a physical altercation over wearing a mask resulting in someone’s death. The victim was 80-years-old.

The confrontation took place at Pamp’s Red Zone Bar and Grill in West Seneca, New York, on September 26.

Witnesses say Rocco Sapienza confronted Donald Lewinski, 65, for not wearing a mask inside the bar, according to published reports. Lewinski is accused of shoving Sapienza, causing the older man to fall.

“The defendant allegedly stood up from the barstool and pushed him with two hands, and he pushed him pretty hard,” Flynn said. “The victim went flying back, hit his head on the ground, on the floor of the bar.”

Sapienza was knocked unconscious and unresponsive. He died five days later, according to Flynn. The initial cause of death was blunt force trauma to the head.

Sapienza was a retired Pennsylvania steelworker and former Marine who would stick up for the little guy, according to CBS Pittsburgh.

“He wasn’t afraid to call somebody out for being stupid, for acting stupid,” son Richard Sapienza told the CBS affiliate.

Flynn says he watched a surveillance video of the incident, and the shove appeared to come without warning, but the two had been involved in a verbal altercation.

“From the witness statements, these two just did not like one and other. These two were butting heads from minute one, there,” said Flynn.

Donald Lewinski is charged with criminally negligent homicide, a Class E felony.


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