Skip to content

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.

Latest Posts
  1. Manchester United to sign Toni Kroos? Think again

    Apr 16, 2014, 7:58 AM EDT

    Toni Kroos, Pierre-Michel Lasogga AP

    Kroos’ camp say he won’t move on until 2015, as Bayern and United scrap over German star.

  2. Manchester City the best paid team in sport, beat New York Yankees to accolade

    Apr 16, 2014, 7:15 AM EDT

    Manchester City's Belgian captain Vincen

    The top 10 best paid sports teams in the world revealed. Find out who pays the most, right here:

  3. CONCACAF Champions League: Toluca escapes Estadio Azul with 0-0, opening leg draw

    Apr 15, 2014, 11:10 PM EDT

    marco_fabian AP

    Mexico’s top two teams reach halftime of their two-legged final, with leg two kickoff next Wednesday in Toluca.

  4. PST’s Major League Soccer Power Rankings – Week 6

    Apr 15, 2014, 9:42 PM EDT

    javier_morales_kyle_beckerman AP

    The top four remain unchanged, while Houston, New England, and Portland make big shifts on this week’s chart.

  5. Video: Remembering the Hillsborough disaster, 25 years later

    Apr 15, 2014, 7:58 PM EDT

    anfield AP

    Thoughts from NBCSN’s analysts as will as footage from Rodgers’, Martínez’s speeches at Anfield.

  6. ProSoccerTalk MLS Team of the Week – Week 6

    Apr 15, 2014, 7:02 PM EDT

    federico_higuain AP

    Three LA Galaxy players join two members of the Columbus Crew in our Best XI.

  7. Arsene Wenger insists Arsenal can finish in the top four

    Apr 15, 2014, 6:08 PM EDT

    FC Bayern Muenchen v Arsenal - UEFA Champions League Round of 16 Getty Images

    Gunners go back into the top four, but can they hold off Everton?

  8. Survey: Ronaldo, Messi, Ibrahimovic among top five highest paid athletes in the world

    Apr 15, 2014, 5:47 PM EDT

    Will Ronaldo win his first-ever Champions League title with Real Madrid this season? AP

    Four soccer players rank amount the world’s top 25 earners.

  9. Crimes and Misdemeanors: Giancarlo Gonzalez’s dive draws MLS’s attention

    Apr 15, 2014, 5:16 PM EDT

    eddie_johnson_giancarlo_gonzalez AP

    Columbus’s Costa Rican international is the latest player to donate to MLS Works.

  10. Arsenal 3-1 West Ham United: Podolski double puts Gunners back in the win column (video)

    Apr 15, 2014, 4:42 PM EDT

    lukas_podolski Getty Images

    The Gunners overcame a Matt Jarvis opener to take their second win of the season from the Irons.

  11. Report: Tottenham Hotspur want Jurgen Klopp as new boss

    Apr 15, 2014, 4:15 PM EDT

    Borussia Dortmund's coach Klopp waves to supporters at the end of their Champions League quarter final first leg soccer match against Malaga in Malaga

    Klopp to take over at White Hart Lane?

  12. PST’s Major League Soccer Player of the Week: Clint Dempsey

    Apr 15, 2014, 3:47 PM EDT

    Dempsey's six goals in four games (three starts) are tops in Major League Soccer, putting him one ahead of Chivas USA's Erick Torres. (Credit: AP Photos) AP

    Last week’s hat trick couldn’t snare our honor, but two goals in Dallas made the Sounder star this week’s best player.

  13. Soccer helping to bring together Syrian children in refugee camp

    Apr 15, 2014, 2:35 PM EDT

    Photothek Getty Images

    A story from The Daily Beast deals with many obstacles faced by the girls, including some prevailing belief that they shouldn’t even watch sport, let alone play soccer.

  14. Watch Live: Arsenal vs. West Ham United (Lineups and Discuss)

    Apr 15, 2014, 2:03 PM EDT

    Wojciech Szczesny AP

    The Gunners and Hammers are putting some London derby bragging rights on the line this evening at the Emirates Stadium live on NBCSN and online NBC Sports Live Extra

  15. Premier League Preview: Arsenal vs. West Ham United

    Apr 15, 2014, 1:21 PM EDT

    West Ham United v Arsenal - Premier League Getty Images

    West Ham last took a point from Arsenal in an October 2009 draw, and hasn’t beaten the Gunners since an April 7, 2007 win at the Emirates.

  16. On anniversary of Boston Marathon attack, video details Reis’ heroics

    Apr 15, 2014, 12:46 PM EDT

    Columbus Crew v New England Revolution Getty Images

    MLSSoccer.com’s “MLS Insider” series brings a strong video on the anniversary of Matt Reis’ heroics at the Boston Marathon bombing.

  17. WATCH: Roberto Martinez’s stirring speech at Hillsborough memorial

    Apr 15, 2014, 11:57 AM EDT

    Britain Soccer Premier League AP

    His speech was equal parts soccer fan, Merseyside resident and fixture in the game.

  18. Inter Milan player produces a historically-scummy bit of gamesmanship

    Apr 15, 2014, 11:27 AM EDT

    UC Sampdoria v FC Internazionale Milano - Serie A Getty Images

    Let’s say you’re dating your ex-teammate’s ex-wife and spend a lot of time with his kids. What’s a super scummy idea before your team plays his?

Featured video

Week 34: Weekend Recap