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Man charged over deadly mask altercation

A New York man has been charged with the death of an elderly man after they were involved in a bitter mask altercation.Rocco Sapienza, 80, died on September 26 after he was allegedly shoved to the ground at a bar near Buffalo.Donald Lewinski, 65, faces a charge of criminally negligent homicide after the altercation, Erie…

A New York man has been charged with the death of an elderly man after they were involved in a bitter mask altercation.

Rocco Sapienza, 80, died on September 26 after he was allegedly shoved to the ground at a bar near Buffalo.

Donald Lewinski, 65, faces a charge of criminally negligent homicide after the altercation, Erie County District Attorney John Flynn said.

Mr Sapienza confronted Mr Lewinski at the bar about how he had been speaking to the staff and for not wearing a mask.

Police allege Mr Lewinski then shoved Mr Sapienza.

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

Mr Sapienza was rushed to hospital but succumbed to his injuries after four days in a coma.

The preliminary autopsy results showed Mr Sapienza died from blunt force trauma to the head.

The 80-year-old, who was a Marine veteran and retired steelworker, was known for standing up for people, his son Richard Sapienza told KDKA.

“He wasn’t afraid to call somebody out for being stupid, for acting stupid,” Mr Sapienza said.

“If you knew my father, that’s the kind of guy he was. And my father could hold a conversation with anybody, he was a very friendly man.”

Mr Sapienza had been at the bar by himself that night and was regarded as a regular.

His nephew Blaine Riley told CNN his uncle was well-known in the area.

“I don’t care what the reason was, you never put your hands on an 80 year old and shove like that,” Mr Riley said.

“My Uncle Rocky should have passed surrounded by family… not like that.”

Mr Sapienza is survived by his wife Anita.

Mr Lewinski faces up to four years in prison, if convicted.

His lawyer Barry Covert told The Buffalo News his client plans to plead not guilty.

Mr Sapienza’s death is the latest in a handful of violent altercations over mask wearing, in a bid to stop the spread of coronavirus.

In July, a French bus driver was left brain dead and later died after he was attacked for refusing to let a group, all without face masks, onto his bus.

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