Juvenile Justice

Soccer ref dies nearly a week after he is punched by 17-year-old goalie; charges are under review


A volunteer soccer referee has died nearly a week after he was punched by a 17-year-old goalkeeper, spurring prosecutors to review charges against the youth.

The referee, 46-year-old Ricardo Portillo of Salt Lake City, died on Saturday when he was taken off life support, report the Associated Press and the Salt Lake Tribune. Police say the 17-year-old soccer player punched Portillo in the head at an April 27 game after the youth received a warning from the ref for pushing an opponent. Portillo spent nearly a week in a coma; his organs were donated to people needing transplants.

Portillo was punched while refereeing a match by the La Liga Continental de Futbol league played in Taylorsville, a Salt Lake City suburb.

The youth is in juvenile custody. AP says he was booked on suspicion of aggravated assault while the Salt Lake Tribune says no charges have been filed. Portillo’s family and friends held a candlelight vigil on Sunday in the ref’s honor.

Portillo’s daughter, Johana, said her father has been attacked by players twice before when refereeing soccer matches, and he suffered broken ribs and legs, according to the stories. She said she hopes her father’s death leads to better security at sporting events and better self-control by players.

Portillo’s brother-in-law, Pedro Lopez, said the 17-year-old player isn’t solely at fault in Portillo’s death, AP says. “It’s not the ignorance of the child, it’s the poor manners of the parents,” Lopez said. “The yells and insults from the sideline from the parents make kids more violent.”

Subsequent coverage:

ABAJournal.com: “Teen goalie is charged with homicide by assault in ref’s death”

Updated at 2 p.m. to state that Portillo was from Salt Lake City and he was refereeing a match by the La Liga Continental de Futbol league played in Taylorsville. Updated on May 9 to add subsequent coverage.

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