Murray, UT – 46-year-old Ricardo Portillo died from the head injury he suffered when an angry youth punched him in the head during a soccer match.
Lt. Justin Hoyle with the Salt Lake Unified Police Department told Yahoo News that Portillo was a refereeing a game at Eisenhower Junior High, in Taylorsville, Utah, last weekend when he flagged the teen for a foul.
“He made a call against a player that he was unhappy with, and gave him a yellow card, so the 17-year-old turned and punched him in face,” Hoyle told ABCNews.com.
The youth immediately turned himself about and punched Portillo in the head. Portillo collapsed to the ground, and an ambulance was called. Initially, it was believed his injury was minor but the father of three girls slipped into a coma not long after arriving at the hospital. He never emerged from that coma and died Sunday from the brain injury.
The 17-year-old who assaulted Portillo fled the scene but was later captured by police.
The unnamed youth was placed in the Salt Lake County Detention Center on assault charges.
However, with Portillo’s death, police say more criminal charges are going to be filed. His family is shocked. They said that at first they were told their father was injured only to later hear he was in a coma. The brain trauma that Portillo suffered caused his brain to swell which eventually caused the coma.
Johana Portillo, the oldest of his three daughters had spoken to the press on Saturday and said the violent teen had caused her family “a lot of pain”.
“Last Saturday when we got called we thought it wasn’t that serious, we thought, ‘OK, they’re going to call and we’ll have to go get him out again and he’s going to be OK,’ but it wasn’t like that,” she said. “This person caused us a lot of pain.”
“He was a father, he was a friend, he was a grandfather, he left a whole family behind,” said Johana Portillo. “They should think before they do something stupid.”
Mario Vazquez, the league president who also was a friend and worked with Portillo, said Sunday everyone in the league had the greatest respect for him.
“We will miss him at the soccer fields. He loved the game and loved doing his job. Ricardo always had a great sense of humour and loved being in the service of others,” Vazquez said.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with the Portillo family during this difficult time. Ricardo will always be with us,” he said.
Johana Portillo said she hopes her father’s death leads to more security at sporting events and better self-control from players.
Pedro Lopez, his brother-in-law and a fellow soccer referee, called on soccer players worldwide to respect referees and remember it’s a sport meant to relieve stress — not cause pain.
“Remember that we are human beings, and we make mistakes,” Lopez said in Spanish. “Don’t take justice into your own hands.”
Family members called on athletes around the world Sunday night to hold their tempers in check so another family doesn’t have to suffer.
They spoke at a candlelight vigil held on the front lawn of the Salt Lake City home of Ricardo Portillo, 46. Wearing white shirts and holding signs that read, “In loving memory of Ricky,” family and friends stood around a table that had a picture of Portillo raising his arms in victory, with flowers and candles surrounding it.
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Soccer Referee Punched by Teen Player Dies