When 80-year-old Rocco E. Sapienza rounded the corner of the bar on Sept. 26 to confront another customer who had been walking around the West Seneca, N.Y., establishment without wearing a mask, the maskless man shoved him.
“He pushed him pretty hard,” Erie County District Attorney John J. Flynn said at a news conference Monday. “The victim went flying back.”
Sapienza hit his head on the hard floor and immediately began having a seizure, Flynn said. He remained unresponsive in a nearby hospital for four days before dying on Sept. 30.
After being arrested, cited and released earlier in the week, 65-year-old Donald M. Lewinski pleaded not guilty on Tuesday to a negligent homicide charge in Sapienza’s death.
The deadly incident is just the latest in a long list of violent confrontations over mask rules in public spaces as the United States has grappled with the novel coronavirus pandemic. Even in hard-hit states like New York, which has reported at least 466,908 cases and 32,939 deaths since the start of the pandemic, some have protested policies requiring masks and other precautions to stop the spread of the coronavirus.