WEST SENECA, N.Y. (WIVB)– Erie County District Attorney John Flynn believes this could be the first case of its kind in the country, a physical altercation over wearing a mask, resulting in death.
Flynn says disagreements happen all the time and in some cases, there may be an injury, but this was fatal.
Flynn says the deadly confrontation took place at Pamp’s Red Zone Bar and Grill in West Seneca.
On Saturday, September 26th, two men believed to be regulars at the tavern.. got into a heated discussion over face masks.
“From the witness statements, these two just did not like one another. These two were butting heads from minute one, there.”
Flynn says one of the bar patrons, identified as 65-year-old Donald Lewinski of West Seneca, is accused of shoving the other man, 80-year-old Rocco Sapienza also of West Seneca.
“The defendant allegedly stood up from the bar stool and pushed him with two hands, and he pushed him pretty hard. The victim went flying back, hit his head on the ground, on the floor, of the bar.”
Sapienza was knocked unconscious, unresponsive.. and Flynn says 5 days later, the West Seneca man was dead. The initial cause of death was blunt force trauma to the head. Flynn says he watched a surveillance video of the incident, and the shove appeared to be without warning.
“But from what I can see from the video, the victim was not ready for the shove, he was not bracing himself for anything.”
Face masks are considered crucial to preventing the spread of the coronavirus and Flynn commented how senseless arguments over using a mask can turn out.
“When you get up to go to the bathroom, or when you get up to walk anywhere around, pull your mask up. When you sit down, pull it down.”
Donald Lewinski is charged with criminally negligent homicide, a Class E felony, but Flynn says it is among those crimes that are considered non-violent and don’t require bail.
Lewinski is set for arraignment in West Seneca Town Court Tuesday afternoon.
Al Vaughters is an award-winning investigative reporter who has been part of the News 4 team since 1994. See more of his work here.