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Utah soccer referee dies after teen punches him in the face

May 5, 2013, 8:12 AM EDT

Referee Punched

Horrible news out of Utah late last night as a soccer referee has died after slipping into a coma following being punched in the face by a teenage player during a game played on Saturday April 27th.

Ricardo Portillo of Salt Lake City passed away at Intermountain Medical Center where he was being treated for a punch he received after whistling a 17 year old player for a foul and issuing him a yellow card. The player, who has not been named because of his age, reportedly threw a single punch at Portillo.

The punch caused Portillo to suffer swelling in his brain, landing him in critical condition. While no cause of death has been released, a planned autopsy is expected to confirm the punch as the proximate cause.

Police continue to collect details of the incident and as of now, most are based on hearsay. But it appears that the teen was playing goalkeeper when he pushed an opposing forward who was in the midst of a goal scoring opportunity. Portillo deemed the contact to be egregious enough to warrant a caution.

The player immediately began arguing with Portillo before unleashing a punch to the side of the referee’s head. Portillo was reportedly writing down the booking at the time of the punch. Following the punch Portillo appeared to be OK but then claimed he felt dizzy. He sat down and started vomiting blood, at which time his friend called an ambulance.

When police arrived at Eisenhower Junior High School in Taylorsville, the goalkeeper was nowhere to be found. Portillo was conscious but in the fetal position complaining of nausea and pain in his face and back. EMT’s transported him to the hospital in fair condition but soon after arriving he slipped into a coma with swelling in his brain.

Detectives searched for the player and his father brought the 17 year old in to speak with police.

Apparently, this is not the first time Portillo had been attacked in a match. Portillo’s family claims he had been attacked before, and the referee’s daughter, 26 year old Johanna Portillo, said she and her sisters begged their father to stop refereeing because of the risk from angry players.

Portillo refused, however, because of his love for soccer. “It was his passion,” she said. “We could not tell him no.”

Following the incident the player was booked into juvenile detention on suspicion of aggravated assault. With Portillo’s death, the teen will now be charged with homicide, likely manslaughter. The major determination of the player’s punishment will be whether or not he is charged as an adult. In Utah, there are several circumstances under which a juvenile may be tried in adult court. These include cases where the juvenile is fourteen years or older and has been charged with a serious felony.

  1. jeffkessock - May 5, 2013 at 8:27 AM

    It’s not “through” a punch, it’s “threw” a punch. We owe it to our readers to be diligent in our journalistic integrity, and our spelling reflects that.

    • pakalani4748 - May 5, 2013 at 8:59 AM

      Your comment is ridiculous. This isn’t an article about spelling or ‘journalistic integrity’. It is about a decent man who died young because a soccer player had the audacity to punch Mr. Portillo so hard that it killed him. Why don’t you check other sites for low journalistic standards. They are everywhere.

  2. pakalani4748 - May 5, 2013 at 9:21 AM

    My 16-year old nephew plays on 2 soccer teams. Although some of his fellow players think it’s cool to act up on the field, they all know that if they are belligerent to fellow players or to referees they will be kicked off the team. Part of sportsmanship is being a good winner and a gracious loser. I have attended many local and professional games through the years. Whether it is baseball or soccer, the teen players take their cue from their parents, some of whom verbally push their kids around and urge them to be more physically aggressive to other players and even to the refs. I’ve seen parents banned from attending their children’s sports events when the parents’ behavior is puerile. The best players are those whose parents are not trying to relive their failed high school sports careers through their children. This may not be the case with the young man who punched Mr. Portillo, but he certainly has an anger problem and no respect for authority if he felt he could casually walk up to an adult and hit him. Any player who exhibits that kind of behavior should not be on a team of any kind. Anger, rage and physically acting out are acute symptoms in teens that need to be dealt with professionally. Mr. Portillo’s daughter stated her father had been hit before. Where were the people running this team and why didn’t they crack down on all the players, all teams, and issue a “no tolerance” rule with respect to touching a referee or a fellow player. This is a tragedy that didn’t have to happen if this soccer team had been handled correctly. My deepest condolences to the Portillo family. Also, this teen has thrown his life away in a fit of anger; his parents need to do some heavy soul searching as to how their home life may have contributed to turning their son into an angry, out of control person.

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