Fight over face mask leads to 80-year-old man’s death, suspect’s indictment for criminally negligent homicide

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Source: Erie County District Attorney's Office; MEGA

May. 11 2021, Published 3:18 p.m. ET

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A New York senior citizen who got into a bar fight with an elderly man is now accused of murder, authorities said.

On May 10, Donald M. Lewinski was arraigned on an indictment charging him with one count of criminally negligent homicide, Erie County District Attorney John J. Flynn announced.

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On Sept. 26, 2020, just before 8 p.m., Lewinski, 65, and 80-year-old Rocco E. Sapienza allegedly got into a disagreement inside Pamp’s Red Zone Bar and Grill in West Seneca. 

"The argument allegedly involved the defendant not adhering to the face mask requirement while inside the establishment,” according to the D.A.’s office. “The defendant allegedly pushed the victim, causing him to fall backwards and hit his head on the floor.”

Sapienza went into a seizure and was rushed to the Erie County Medical Center in Buffalo, where he died from his injuries five days later, The Buffalo News reported. 

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Officials determined his cause of death was blunt force trauma to the head, the district attorney said.

Leading up to the deadly incident, the victim had repeatedly confronted the defendant over petty issues, swore and threatened him, Lewinski’s lawyer, Barry Covert, alleged to The News.

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“In our opinion, this situation was not only about a face mask,” he said, insisting, “Other issues were at play.” 

West Seneca Police Capt. James Unger countered the investigation “did not reveal there was any immediate threat that [Lewinski] had to protect himself from.”

A judge set bail at $10,000, and Lewinski must not enter any establishment that serves alcohol.

He faces up to four years in prison if found guilty of the negligent homicide charge against him. 

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