80-year-old man dies after being shoved to ground in fight over mask

A New York man has been arrested in connection with the death of an 80-year-old who was shoved to the ground at a bar during a confrontation over wearing a face mask, according to reports. (AJC file photo)
A New York man has been arrested in connection with the death of an 80-year-old who was shoved to the ground at a bar during a confrontation over wearing a face mask, according to reports. (AJC file photo)

Credit: TNS

Credit: TNS

A New York man has been charged in connection with the death of an 80-year-old who was shoved to the ground at a bar during a confrontation over wearing a face mask, according to reports.

Donald Lewinski, 65, of West Seneca, New York, was charged Monday with criminally negligent homicide in the death of Rocco Sapienza, who argued with him about not wearing a face covering two weekends ago.

»FROM AUGUST: Teen’s jaw smashed after asking guest to wear mask at Sesame Place

Lewinski’s arraignment was scheduled for later Tuesday, where he was expected to plead not guilty, according to NBC News, citing Lewinski’s attorney Barry N. Covert.

“It’s certainly a tragedy that Mr. Sapienza passed away,” Covert said. “My client and his family want to express their best wishes and sympathy to the family of Mr. Sapienza.”

The incident occurred Sept. 26 at Pamp’s Red Zone Bar & Grill in West Seneca, about 10 miles southeast of Buffalo.

Prosecutors said Lewinski and Sapienza had a heated run-in at the establishment and “were butting heads from minute one.”

Words between the two first erupted across the bar over another issue.

“Apparently, the victim didn’t like the way the defendant was talking to some of the staff; also there was an incident beforehand that involved a young lady, and the victim didn’t like the way the defendant spoke to the young lady,” Erie County District Attorney John J. Flynn said at a news conference Monday, according to NBC.

From there, the argument escalated with the focus turning to Lewinski not wearing a mask, the district attorney said.

»FROM AUGUST: Mom, 6 kids kicked off flight after 2-year-old refuses to wear mask

Sapienza is next shown on surveillance footage getting “up from his bar stool. He walks around the corner; he confronts the gentleman who wasn’t wearing his mask,” Flynn said, according to the network. “The defendant allegedly stood up from the bar stool and pushed him with two hands.”

On the ground, the elderly man went into a seizure, lost consciousness and died days later, according to reports.

Authorities determined his cause of death as “blunt force trauma to the head,” according to reports.

Mask disputes have become all too commonplace in the pandemic era.

The nation’s top health officials continue to strongly suggest wearing one to slow the spread of the virus, but the growing requirements at stores and restaurants has become a hot political issue with the presidential election less than a month away.

In many instances, retail, restaurant and theme park employees have become embroiled in similar confrontations when trying to enforce mask policies.

In early May, three people were charged in the shooting death of a Family Dollar security guard in Michigan who asked customers to wear masks as they entered the store.

Just days later, three employees of an Oklahoma City McDonald’s restaurant were shot after telling a 32-year-old female customer that the dining room was closed as a pandemic precaution and that she wouldn’t be able to eat there.

In late July, a Pennsylvania man opened fire on a store clerk who asked him to wear a face mask and then allegedly opened fire with an AK-47 assault rifle when authorities showed up to arrest him the next day.

Before that, two men got into a brawl with Trader Joe’s employees for not wearing face masks inside the store.

In August, a 17-year-old employee at the Sesame Place children’s theme park near Philadelphia needed a tooth removed and double jaw surgery after he was punched in the face for asking two guests to wear face masks.

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