An 80-year-old man from West Seneca, New York died on October 1, from injuries sustained after asking a patron at his local bar to wear a mask,  the New York Times reports

On September 26, Rocco Sapienza was shoved to the ground inside Pamp’s Red Zone Bar & Grill by 65-year-old Donald Lewinski, after Sapienza confronted him about not covering his mouth and nose to prevent the spread of coronavirus. Sapienza fell backwards and hit his head on the bar floor, losing consciousness shortly thereafter. Lewinski paid his tab and left while Sapienza was taken to Erie County Medical Center. Doctors performed brain surgery to try and stabilize the elderly man, but he ultimately succumbed to his injuries. 

Lewinski has been charged with criminally negligent homicide. He pleaded not guilty on October 6. His attorney shared a statement that said Lewinski  was “sympathetic” to Sapienza and his family, but told NYT that it was Sapienza who initiated the confrontation. 

The Erie County District Attorney John J. Flynn called the incident “beyond sad” while speaking with NYT.

“These kinds of situations have continued to escalate, and this should cause everyone to pause and think twice now about how we as a society want to conduct ourselves during this pandemic,” he said.

The bar issued a statement about the loss of Sapienza, who was apparently a beloved regular at the West Seneca spot. “We are all deeply saddened by the loss of Rocco,” they wrote. “He was a part of our Red Zone family and loved by all. Our deepest sympathies go out to Rocco’s family."

Lewinski is not allowed to go to bars, contact the Sapienza family or post about the case on social media, as part of the conditions of his pre-trial release.

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