Eighty-year-old Rocco Sapienza was not afraid in the slightest when he approached a fellow patron at Pamp’s Red Zone Bar & Grill on September 26 in West Seneca, New York.
Last Monday, police arrested 65-year-old Donald Lewinski on charges related to fatally shoving Sapienza that day after he requested Lewinski to put on a face mask.
Before the incident, surveillance footage shows two men sitting alone in different areas of the bar.
Both men had been there for a few hours prior to exchanging words over face masks at about 7:45 that night, per the New York Times.
Lewinski got up several times throughout the night while not wearing a mask.
In New York, customers at bars and restaurants are required to wear face masks when they are not at their tables to help protect other patrons but Lewinski allegedly was not following this practice.
Police said Lewinski was also making “lewd comments” to other guests and employees throughout the night.
The owner of Pamp’s, Debbie Ehlers, spoke with Lewinski for about a minute before Sapienza put on his own mask, walked over, and confronted Lewinski about his failure to wear a face covering. And then “out of the blue,” Lewinski’s response was to “two-hand shove” Sapienza, according to Erie County District Attorney John J. Flynn.
Sapienza lost his balance and, as he fell, his left arm knocked over a nearby bar stool and he hit his head on the floor. He appeared to lose consciousness.
“They had exchanged words prior to the confrontation,” Captain James Unger of West Seneca Police said. “And then the incident with the masks was the culmination of all those little verbal spats.”
Lewinski paid his bill and left.
Sapienza was rushed to Erie County Medical Center, where he underwent brain surgery. And on October 1, he died from his injuries.
Ehlers told WKBW in a statement that Sapienza “was a part of our Red Zone family and loved by all.”
“Our deepest sympathies go out to Rocco’s family,” she added.
With a background in the creative and educational fields, Amelia Finefrock is freelance writer, singer-songwriter and nanny based in Chicago.