MURRAY, Utah (AP) — A longtime Utah soccer referee is in a coma after being punched by a teenage player unhappy with one of his calls during a weekend game, and his family says they're hoping for the man's miraculous recovery and want justice for him.
Ricardo Portillo, 46, has swelling in his brain and his recovery is uncertain as he remains in critical condition, Dr. Shawn Smith said Thursday at the Intermountain Medical Center in the Salt Lake City suburb of Murray.
Police say a 17-year-old player in a recreational soccer league punched Portillo after the man called a foul on him and issued him a yellow card. The teen has been booked into juvenile detention on suspicion of aggravated assault. Those charges could be amplified if Portillo dies.
The attack Saturday wasn't the first time Portillo has been assaulted by an angry player while refereeing, said his oldest daughter, Johana Portillo. He's had his ribs and leg broken before.
Smith declined to speak about what caused Ricardo Portillo's injuries or divulge his prognosis due to the ongoing police investigation. But Johana Portillo, 26, said her father might not survive.
"I know he didn't, he doesn't want to leave us," she said, crying. "We hope for a miracle that he will be ok."
Johana Portillo wasn't at the Saturday afternoon game in the Salt Lake City suburb of Taylorsville, but she said she's been told by witnesses and detectives that the player hit her father in the side of the head after he issued the yellow card.
"When he was writing down his notes, he just came out of nowhere and punched him," she said.
His friends who were there told her Ricardo Portillo seemed fine at first, but then asked to be held because he felt dizzy. They sat him down and he started vomiting blood, triggering his friend to call an ambulance. The referee has been in a coma since Saturday.
Johana Portillo said her father's passion is soccer, and he's been a referee in the recreational league for eight years. Five years ago, a player upset with a call broke his ribs. A few years before that, a player broke his leg, she said. Other referees have been hurt, too.