Donald Lewinski charged with criminally negligent homicide of Rocco Sapienza 80 year old West Seneca bar patron following confrontation of him not wearing face mask.
An 80-year-old upstate NY man has died after confronting a bar patron not wearing a mask after being pushed to the floor and suffering a non recoverable head injury. The man’s death in the days after led to the regular bar client being charged in his death, prosecutors announced.
Rocco Edward Sapienza got into an argument with 65-year-old Donald Lewinski when he observed him not wearing a face mask at Pamp’s Red Zone Bar and Grill in West Seneca on Sept. 26, as he carried beer buckets from indoors WABC reports.
In New York State, customers at bars and restaurants are required to wear face coverings when they are not seated.
Lewinski pushed Sapienza ‘pretty hard’ with both hands, prompting the older man to fall back and hit his head on the floor, according to Erie County District Attorney John Flynn.
‘He was pretty much in an unresponsive condition right away. He went into a seizure right away there on the floor of the bar,’ Flynn said during a Monday press conference.
Lewinski’s lawyer said he plans to plead not guilty
Sapienza, who was taken to hospital and diagnosed with blunt force trauma would die three days later on Sept. 30, prosecutors said.
Lewinski paid his bar tab and left after the incident, but was later identified through interviews and surveillance footage, the Buffalo News reports.
Come Monday, he was taken into custody on a charge of criminally negligent homicide.
Lewinski’s lawyer said he plans to plead not guilty when he appears in West Seneca Town Court on Tuesday evening.
‘He wasn’t afraid to call somebody out for being stupid’
If convicted of the charge, he faces up to four years in prison, WBFO reported.
The encounter followed months of tension and often vitriolic confrontations across the country over masks. Numerous disputes escalated to violence; including store workers being spat at, urinated on, shot at, while others captured on video breaking down in accusatory fits.
Monday’s indictment was the first of its kind in NY the nytimes reported in which a confrontation over a face mask led to anyone’s death.
‘It’s unfortunate that we have an incident here in western New York where this escalated into an 80-year-old man passing away,’ Flynn told reporters on Monday.
Sapienza, a retired steelworker and former Marine, was remembered by his family as someone who always stood up for what was right, KDKA reported.
‘He wasn’t afraid to call somebody out for being stupid, for acting stupid,’ his son Richard Sapienza said. ‘If you knew my father, that’s the kind of guy he was.’