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80-year-old dies following dispute over mask at Buffalo-area bar, suspect charged with homicide

Posted at 5:08 AM, Oct 06, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-06 08:08:44-04

WEST SENECA, N.Y. — Prosecutors have charged a West Seneca man with criminally negligent homicide after a dispute over wearing a face covering left an 80-year-old man dead.

Donald Lewinski, 65, of West Seneca, was taken into custody Monday following an incident on Sept. 26 at Pamp's Red Zone Bar and Grill.

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.

At one point, prosecutors said Sapienza got up and confronted Lewinski. That's when Lewinski stood up and pushed Sapienza "hard" with both hands, the D.A. said. Sapienza fell back and hit his head on the ground.

Sapienza was taken to Erie County Medical Center, where he was unresponsive for four days. He died on Sept. 30.
The cause of death is blunt force trauma to the head.

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

Lewinski is set to appear in West Seneca Town Court Tuesday night.

A celebration of life for Sapienza will take place Tuesday at 11 a.m. at the Southtown Christian Center.

This story was originally published by WKBW in Buffalo, New York.