SALT LAKE CITY, UT – A referee for a recreational soccer league who was punched in the face by a teenager has died, police in Salt Lake City said.
Ricardo Portillo, 46, was refereeing a game in the Salt Lake City suburb of Taylorsville on April 27 when he cited a player for an infraction and issued him a “yellow card.”
In soccer, a yellow card is a caution to the player; a second results in his ejection from the game.
The decision, police say, prompted the 17-year-old player to turn around and punch Portillo in the face.
At first, authorities thought Portillo suffered only minor injuries from the assault.
But after he was taken to a hospital, doctors discovered he had suffered serious internal head injuries, police said.
For seven days, he remained in critical condition.
“He loved soccer,” his daughter Johana Portillo told CNN’s Jake Tapper on Friday. “We just never thought this was going to happen. He loved what he did and it was his passion.”
She added: “The doctor says only a miracle will bring my daddy back.”
On Saturday night, Portillo died from his injuries.
Authorities will conduct an autopsy.
Teen in juvenile detention
As for the teenager, he remains in juvenile detention.
Police initially charged him with aggravated assault. But with Portillo’s death, authorities expect to upgrade the charges.
Officials have not released the teenager’s name because he is a juvenile.
The incident took place during a game of Fut International, a Hispanic soccer league for children between ages 5 and 17.
League president Mario Vasquez told CNN affiliate KUTV he didn’t know the suspect personally, but was not aware of other incidents involving the player.
But, he said, the league has a no-tolerance policy and kicks out players if they engage in violence toward each other, referees or parents.
Similar incident in the Netherlands
The incident brings to mind a similar attack in the Netherlands in December.
In that incident, police charged two 15-year-olds and a 16-year-old who beat a 41-year-old linesman during an amateur soccer game.
The linesman’s son was playing in the game when the incident occurred — and witnessed the attack.
The linesman, Richard Nieuwenhuizen, fell into a coma and died the next day.
From Jackie Castillo
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