Michigan Soccer Referee Dies After Being Punched During Game

A soccer referee who was punched by a player in an adult league match Sunday in Livonia, Michigan has died, leaving behind a wife and two sons.

Detroit Receiving Hospital spokesman Alton Gunn and friend Jim Acho confirm that 44-year-old John Bieniewicz died Tuesday morning. Acho said Bieniewicz is being kept on a ventilator until his organs can be harvested and donated through Gift of Life, reported the Detroit Free Press.

Police said the referee was punched after indicating he would eject a player from the game.

Bassel Abdul-Amir Saad, 36, of Dearborn, was arraigned Monday on a felony charge with intent to great bodily harm less than murder. That charge is expected to be amended following Bieniewicz’s death.

“It is alleged that Saad became upset and punched the referee in the head,” the Wayne County Prosecutor’s office said in a statement.

A spokesperson for the prosecutor’s office said they’ll review the case and amend the charges “when appropriate confirmations are made and other necessary documentation is resolved,” according to CBS Local Detroit.

Bieniewicz was the lead medical assistant in the Pediatric Chronic Dialysis unit at C.S. Mott Children’s hospital in Ann Arbor.

“He’s a fantastic human being,” Acho said. “A guy who lives life to the fullest.”

Saad turned himself in to police Monday. His attorney, Brian Berry, said he is cooperating with the investigation.

“Our hearts are saddened to learn of the passing of John Bieniewicz. May God bless him and his family members as they deal with this loss,” Berry said in an email.

“Based on certain witness statements that have not yet been published, it is believed that the facts of this case have been mischaracterized,” the email said. “Mr Saad is presumed innocent unless and until a fact finder determines differently. As tragic as this event is, we must keep open minds and listen and wait for all the facts of the case to unfold.”

“I speak for all his friends when I say we are devastated. Crushed. Just a senseless way for a great guy to go out,” Acho said. “He deserved better.”

Scott Herkes was playing in the game Sunday, and said he was about 30 yards away as a player on the opposing team punched the referee. “It was terrifying,” he said. “I have never in my life seen something like this.”

This is not the first case of a soccer referee dying after being punched during a match.

As reported last year in The Inquisitr, a referee in Utah died after a punch was delivered by a 17-year-old during a youth league game.

[Image via The Detroit Free Press]