Wednesday, 7 October 2020

New York man, 65, is charged with homicide after 'shoving 80-year-old bar patron to the ground and causing him to hit his head' in row over wearing face masks

 A New York man, 65, has been charged with homicide after he allegedly shoved an 80-year-old bar patron to the ground causing him to hit his head and die in a row over a face mask.

Donald M. Lewinski, 65, was arrested Monday and charged with criminally negligent homicide over the incident that left Rocco E. Sapienza, 80, dead, Erie County District Attorney John Flynn announced Monday. 

The two men, who were both regulars at the bar and were said to dislike each other, got into an altercation at Pamp's Red Zone Bar and Grill in West Seneca in Buffalo, New York, on September 26. 

Sapienza died four days later on September 30, with prosecutors saying this could mark the first time in American history that someone has died in a dispute over a face mask.

A New York man, 65, has been charged with homicide after he allegedly shoved an 80-year-old bar patron to the ground causing him to hit his head and die in a row over a face mask. Pictured Rocco E. Sapienza who died after the incident

A New York man, 65, has been charged with homicide after he allegedly shoved an 80-year-old bar patron to the ground causing him to hit his head and die in a row over a face mask. Pictured Rocco E. Sapienza who died after the incident

The incident unfolded at Pamp's Red Zone when retired steelworker Sapienza noticed Lewinski not wearing a mask while taking buckets of beer to a band playing at the bar, prosecutors said.

Sapienza got up and confronted Lewinski for being maskless and for treating bar staff badly, they said. 

The two patrons got into a verbal fight and Lewinski shoved Sapienza 'hard' with both hands, causing him to fall backward and strike his head on the ground, District Attorney John Flynn said.


The 80-year-old was knocked out and fell into a coma.

'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.    

Sapienza was rushed to hospital but was unresponsive and died four days later on September 30. 

An autopsy revealed he died of blunt force trauma to the head. 

The two men, who were both regulars at the bar and were said to dislike each other, got into an altercation at Pamp's Red Zone Bar and Grill (pictured) in West Seneca on September 26

The two men, who were both regulars at the bar and were said to dislike each other, got into an altercation at Pamp's Red Zone Bar and Grill (pictured) in West Seneca on September 26

Rocco E. Sapienza, 80, (pictured) died four days after the incident
Sapienza (pictured) died from blunt force trauma to the head

Donald M. Lewinski, 65, was arrested Monday and charged with criminally negligent homicide over the incident that left Rocco E. Sapienza, 80, (pictured) dead

Prosecutors said there had been a history of tensions between the two men.

'I get the impression from witness statements that these two just didn't like one another... these two were butting heads from minute one there,' Flynn said, according to CNN.

'So there were other things besides the mask that were involved here.'  

Lewinski was charged with the felony of criminally negligent homicide.

District Attorney John Flynn. Prosecutors said this is the first time someone has died in a dispute over a face mask

District Attorney John Flynn. Prosecutors said this is the first time someone has died in a dispute over a face mask

He is scheduled to appear in West Seneca Town Court Tuesday night for his arraignment. 

If convicted, Lewinski faces up to four years in prison over the incident. 

Prosecutors said this could be the first time a person has died and a person has been charged with criminally negligent homicide in a row over a face covering. 

Lewinski's attorney, Barry Covert, told The Buffalo News he plans to plead not guilty and called Sapienza's death 'a tragedy'.

'It's certainly a tragedy that Mr. Sapienza passed away,' said Covert. 

'My client and his family want to express their best wishes and sympathy to the family of Mr. Sapienza.' 

The owner of the bar paid tribute to 'Rocco' who they said was 'part of our Red Zone family'.

'We are all deeply saddened by the loss of Rocco. He was a part of our Red Zone family and loved by all,' Pamp's Red Zone said in a statement. 

'Our deepest sympathies go out to Rocco's family.' 

A celebration of Sapienza's life took place at the Southtown Christian Center Tuesday morning.   

Post a comment

Start typing and press Enter to search