Police: Utah soccer referee punched by player dies


Johana Portillo, center, and her sister Ana Portillo hold hands while Dr. Shawn Smith looks on during a news conference Thursday, May 2, 2013, at Intermountain Medical Center, in Murray, Utah. (Rick Bowmer/AP)
May 5, 2013

A Utah soccer referee who slipped into a coma after being punched by a teenage player during a game a week ago died Saturday night, police said.

Ricardo Portillo, 46, of Salt Lake City passed away at the hospital, where he was being treated following an assault, Greater Salt Lake Unified police spokesman Justin Hoyal said.

Police have accused a 17-year-old player in a recreational soccer league of punching Portillo after the referee called a foul on him and issued him a yellow card.

“The suspect was close to Portillo and punched him once in the face as a result of the call,” Hoyal said in a news release. The teen has been booked into juvenile detention on suspicion of aggravated assault. Hoyal said authorities will consider additional charges since Portillo has died.

The teenager was playing goalie during a game at Eisenhower Junior High School in the Salt Lake City suburb of Taylorsville when Portillo issued him a yellow card for pushing an opposing forward trying to score a goal. In soccer, a yellow card is given as a warning to a player for an egregious violation of the rules. Two yellow cards lead to a red card and expulsion from the game.


Jose Lopez, points to a undated photo of Riccardo Portillo, center, his brother-in-law, following a news conference Thursday, May 2, 2013, at Intermountain Medical Center, in Murray, Utah. (Rick Bowmer/AP)

The teenager began arguing with the referee, then unleashed a punch to his face. Portillo seemed fine at first, then asked to be held because he felt dizzy. He sat down and started vomiting blood, triggering his friend to call an ambulance.

When police arrived around noon, the teenager was gone and Portillo was laying on the ground in the fetal position. Through translators, Portillo told EMTs that his face and back hurt and he felt nauseous. He had no visible injuries and remained conscious. He was considered to be in fair condition when they took him to Intermountain Medical Center.

But when Portillo arrived at the hospital, he slipped into a coma with swelling in his brain. He had been listed in critical condition, Shawn Smith said Thursday at the Intermountain Medical Center in the Salt Lake City suburb of Murray.

Portillo’s family said he had been attacked before, and his daughter, Johanna Portillo, said she and her sisters begged their father to stop refereeing because of the risk from angry players, but he continued because he loved soccer.

“It was his passion,” she said. “We could not tell him no.”

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