80-year-old dies after confronting bar patron over not wearing mask

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A man has been charged with criminally negligent homicide in the death of an 80-year-old who confronted him about not wearing a mask, officials said Monday. Donald Lewinski, 65, is accused of shoving Rocco Sapienza to the ground after a confrontation at a bar in West Seneca, New York, CBS Pittsburgh reported.

John Flynn, the Erie County district attorney in New York, said Lewinski was watching a band perform outside the bar, but would enter the bar to buy beer without wearing a mask. At some point, Sapienza and Lewinski allegedly got into an argument and Lewinski shoved Sapienza with two hands onto the floor, according to Flynn.

Sapienza, who was a retired steelworker, was in a coma after the September 26 incident. He died on October 1 from blunt force trauma to the head, according to a preliminary autopsy report cited by Flynn. 

Officials said it wasn’t immediately clear if the men knew each other before the confrontation took place. 

“It’s unfortunate that we have an incident here now in western New York where this escalated into an 80-year-old man passing away at the hands of a 65-year-old,” said Flynn. He said he believes Sapienza is the first person to die in the U.S. from a physical confrontation over wearing a mask. 

Sapienza’s family in Pittsburgh is remembering him as a former Marine who stood up for the little guy, CBS Pittsburgh said.

“He wasn’t afraid to call somebody out for being stupid, for acting stupid,” Richard Sapienza said. “If you knew my father, that’s the kind of guy he was.” 

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