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80-year-old man dies after mask dispute. Now authorities are charging a 65-year-old with homicide.


Donald Lewinski, 65, faces charges of criminally negligent homicide

Image source: KDKA-TV video screenshot

A 65-year-old man has been charged with criminally negligent homicide after he reportedly pushed an 80-year-old man to the ground.

What are the details?

Rocco Sapienza, 80, was visiting a bar in West Seneca, New York, on Sept. 26 when he approached 65-year-old Donald Lewinski, another bargoer.

According to CNN, Sapienza confronted Lewinski about not wearing a mask and about treating bar staff poorly during some of the evening's interactions at Pamp's Red Zone Bar and Grill.

"Sapienza allegedly confronted Lewinski at a West Senca bar near Buffalo on September 26 about how he spoke to the bar staff and for not regularly wearing a mask as Lewinski brought out buckets of beer to a band playing outside," the outlet reported.

When Lewinski came back inside the bar, he reportedly shoved the 80-year-old man to the ground.

Erie County District Attorney John Flynn said that Sapienza was "pretty much in an unresponsive condition right away."

"[Sapienza] went into a seizure right away there on the floor of the bar," he added.

First responders rushed Sapienza to a nearby hospital, where he remained unresponsive until he died from his injuries on Sept. 30.

An autopsy concluded that Sapienza died of blunt-force trauma to the head.

Flynn announced Monday that Lewinski had been charged with criminally negligent homicide in the death of Sapienza and pointed out that it seemed the two "just didn't like one another" from the moment they met that evening.

"I get the impression from witness statements that these two just didn't like one another," he said. "[T]hese two were butting heads from minute one there. ... So there were other things besides the mask that were involved here."

If convicted, Lewinski could face four years in prison.

'He was a very friendly man'

Lewinski's attorney, Barry Covert, says his client plans to plead not guilty and is set to appear at West Seneca Town Court on Tuesday.

Covert said, "It's certainly a tragedy that Mr. Sapienza passed away. My client and his family want to express their best wishes and sympathy to the family of Mr. Sapienza."

Sapienza's son, Richard, told KDKA-TV that his father — a retired steelworker — was friendly to all he met.

"He wasn't afraid to call somebody out for being stupid, for acting stupid. If you knew my father, that's the kind of guy he was. And my father could hold a conversation with anybody, he was a very friendly man," he said.

The owner of Pamp's Red Zone Bar and Grill told WKBW-TV that the bar's community is also "deeply saddened" by Sapienza's death.

"We are all deeply saddened by the loss of Rocco. He was a part of our Red Zone family and loved by all. Our deepest sympathies go out to Rocco's family," the statement read.

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