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Bar Customer, 80, Dies After Confronting Maskless Man

NY man was shoved to the ground
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 6, 2020 6:34 PM CDT

(Newser) – In a case the district attorney describes as "beyond sad," an 80-year-old bar patron was shoved to the ground and fatally injured after he confronted a fellow customer for not wearing a mask. Rocco Sapienza, a retired steelworker and former Marine, died from head trauma on Oct. 1, five days after the confrontation at Pamp’s Red Zone Bar & Grill in West Seneca, CBS Pittsburgh reports. Donald Lewinski, 65, has been charged with criminally negligent homicide, which carries a maximum sentence of four years.. Investigators say both men had been at the bar for a few hours on Sept. 26 when Sapienza, who had been seated at the bar, got up to speak to Lewinski. Surveillance video shows that Lewinski did not wear a face covering when he wasn't seated, as required in New York state, police say.

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Erie County DA Eric Flynn says video shows Lewinski shoving Sapienza "out of the blue" after they exchanged words. Sapienza hit his head on the floor and never regained consciousness. "It’s beyond sad," Flynn tells the New York Times. "These kinds of situations have continued to escalate, and this should cause everyone to pause and think twice now about how we as a society want to conduct ourselves during this pandemic." Blaine Riley, Sapienza's nephew, says the bar was his uncle's neighborhood hangout. "I don't care what the reason was, you never put your hands on an 80-year-old and shove like that," Riley tells CNN. Police say that Sapienza, a well-liked patron who felt he should be "protecting the staff," had earlier exchanged words with Lewinski over "lewd comments" he had made to workers and other customers. (Read more face masks stories.)

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