Man charged with death of 80-year-old man after mask argument at upstate New York bar

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A man has been charged in the death of an 80-year-old man who died last week after a confrontation at a bar for not wearing a mask and mistreating bar staff in upstate New York , according to the Erie County District Attorney.

Donald Lewinski, 65, faces a criminal negligent homicide charge in the death of Rocco Sapienza, Erie County District Attorney John Flynn said Monday.

Sapienza reportedly confronted Lewinski at a West Seneca bar near Buffalo on Sept. 26 about how he spoke to bar staff and not wearing a mask regularly as Lewinski brought buckets of beer to a group playing at the bar. outside, Flynn said.

When Lewinski returned to the inside of the bar, he allegedly pushed Sapienza to the ground.

“He was pretty much in an unresponsive state right away. He had a fit right away on the bar floor, ”Flynn said.

After Sapienza was taken to Erie County Medical Center, he remained unresponsive until he succumbed to his injuries on September 30, Flynn said.

Sapienza, a retired metallurgist and former Pittsburgh Navy veteran, was known for defending the little guy his son, Richard Sapienza, told CNN affiliate KDKA.

“He wasn’t afraid to call someone for being stupid, for acting stupid,” said Richard Sapienza. “If you knew my dad, that’s the kind of guy he was. And my dad could have a conversation with anyone, he was a very nice man.

Sapienza was at the bar alone that night, according to his nephew Blaine Riley. It was his hangout in the neighborhood and he knew the staff quite well.

“I don’t care why you never got your hands on an 80-year-old man and shoved him like that,” Riley told CNN. “My Uncle Rocky should have spent surrounded by his family… not like this. ”

Sapienza is survived by his wife, Anita, who is still in shock and not doing well, according to Riley. On Tuesday, family and friends gathered for a service of life celebration in her honor.

Preliminary autopsy results showed Sapienza died of a severe head injury, Flynn said.

“I got the impression from the witness statements that these two just didn’t like each other… these two were banging their heads from the first minute,” Flynn said.

“So there were other things besides the mask that were involved here,” the prosecutor said.

The confrontation was videotaped, but there was no audio, Flynn said.

The suspect could face four years in prison

According to all the evidence gathered so far, including witness statements, there is no indication that either of the men was intoxicated or that they knew each other in advance, although ‘They’re regulars at the bar, according to Flynn.

Authorities arrested Lewinski on Monday and released him with an appearance ticket, as recently passed bail laws do not consider criminally negligent homicide a punishable offense unless certain criteria are met , such as an arrest warrant, Flynn said.

Lewinski’s attorney, Barry Covert, said his client plans to plead not guilty when he appears in court, according to The Buffalo News.

“It is certainly a tragedy that Mr. Sapienza died,” Covert told the newspaper. “My client and his family wish to express their best wishes and sympathy to Mr. Sapienza’s family.” »

CNN has contacted Lewinski’s lawyer for comment but has not received a response.

Lewinski will be arraigned on Tuesday at 5 p.m. in West Seneca City Court, Flynn said, and faces up to four years in prison if convicted.

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