80-year-old Rocco Sapienza died days after a bar patron allegedly shoved him to the ground

By Harriet Sokmensuer
October 06, 2020 04:44 PM
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Rocco Sapienza
Credit: Facebook

A New York man has been charged with negligent homicide after allegedly getting in a fight with an 80-year-old man at a bar. The man who died, 80-year-old Rocco Sapienza, allegedly became angry when the other patron, Donald Lewinski, refused to wear a face mask inside the venue.

Lewinski, 65, has been charged with criminally negligent homicide in the Sept. 30 death of Sapienza, Erie County District Attorney John Flynn announced at a press conference Monday.

On Sept. 26, Sapienza confronted Lewinski over not wearing a mask at a West Seneca bar near Buffalo.  The fight turned physical when Lewinski allegedly shoved Sapienza to the ground.

"He was pretty much in an unresponsive condition right away. He went into a seizure right away there on the floor of the bar," Flynn said.

Sapienza was taken to the Erie County Medical Center, where he remained unresponsive until he passed away five days later, on Oct. 1. A preliminary autopsy showed Sapienza had died from blunt force trauma to the head.

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Investigators say there is no indication that Lewinski and Sapienza were intoxicated at the time of the fight and despite both being regulars at the bar, the pair did not know each other.

According to Flynn, there were "other things" beside the masks that played a part in the fight. Witnesses told investigators the pair “just did not like one another." Investigators have video of the altercation but do not have sound.

“We are all deeply saddened by the loss of Rocco. He was a part of our Red Zone family and loved by all. Our deepest sympathies go out to Rocco’s family,” the owner of the bar said in a statement, Syracuse.com reports.

If convicted, Lewsinksi faces up to four years in prison. In a statement to the Buffalo NewsLewinski's attorney, Barry Covert, said,  "It's certainly a tragedy that Mr. Sapienza passed away. My client and his family want to express their best wishes and sympathy to the family of Mr. Sapienza."

Lewsinksi has been given an appearance ticket and is scheduled to appear in court on Tuesday evening.