Man charged in death of 80-year-old man during dispute over mask in western New York bar

WABC logo
Tuesday, October 6, 2020
Man charged in death of 80-year-od man during mask dispute
Donald Lewinski is charged with criminally negligent homicide in the death of 80-year-old Rocco Sapienza during a dispute over a face mask

WEST SENECA, New York (WABC) -- A western New York man is charged with criminally negligent homicide after a dispute over wearing a face mask left an 80-year-old man dead, in what could be the first case of its kind in the nation.

Donald Lewinski, 65, of West Seneca, was taken into custody Monday, reports WKBW, following an incident on September 26 at Pamp's Red Zone Bar and Grill on Southwestern Boulevard in West Seneca.

According to Erie County District Attorney John Flynn, Lewinski got into a verbal confrontation with Rocco Sapienza -- another regular at the bar -- after Sapienza noticed Lewinski was not wearing a mask while bringing buckets of beer to a band playing outside.

Related: Viral video shows Florida protesters demand Target customers remove their masks

At one point, Flynn said Sapienza got up and confronted Lewinski.

That's when Lewinski stood up and pushed Sapienza "hard" with both hands, Flynn said.

Sapienza fell back and hit his head on the ground.

Sapienza was taken to the hospital, where he was unresponsive for four days.

Related: Restaurant owners report aggressive enforcement by NY liquor authorities

He died on September 30, and the cause of death was determined to be blunt force trauma to the head.

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


* More Northern Suburbs news

* Send us a news tip

* Download the abc7NY app for breaking news alerts

* Follow us on YouTube

Submit a News Tip