Punched Soccer Ref Dies, Family Holds Vigil In His Honor

A soccer referee who died after being punched by a teenage player was honored during a candlelight vigil on Sunday. Friends and family gathered to share their grief, remembering Ricardo Portillo as a happy and outgoing individual with a life-long passion for the sport he refereed.

Portillo, a 46-year-old Utah resident, died after being removed from life support on Saturday. His passing came a week after a violent assault left him with swelling to his brain, causing the 46-year-old Utah resident to slip into a coma.

The 17-year-old player accused of viciously punching Portillo during a recreational soccer league game is currently being held in juvenile detention pending further investigation.

On Sunday, dozens of friends and family members came together in front of the Portillo’s Salt Lake City home. Flowers and candles surrounded a portrait of the late soccer referee as memories of his life were shared.

Ricardo Portillo’s eldest daughter, 26-year-old Johana Portillo-Lopez, spoke about forgiveness in the wake of such a senseless tragedy.

She expressed her thoughts about extending the gesture to the teenager who allegedly caused her father’s death by saying, “I will, but not today; it’s too soon.”

She explained, “[Ricardo] was a father, he was a friend, he was a grandfather; he left a whole family behind. They should think before they do something stupid.”

It was reportedly a simple referee call that ignited a violent response from the teenage suspect. According to police and witnesses at the scene, Portillo cited the 17-year-old for pushing an opposing player during a game.

While Portillo was in the process of issuing the suspect a yellow card violation, the player punched the soccer referee in the head. Although the assault initially appeared to have caused minor injury, Portillo soon began exhibiting dangerous symptoms and was rushed to a local hospital.

According to Johana, she spoke to her father for the final time as he began receiving treatment from doctors in the emergency room. “I held his hand and he pressed my hand really hard,” she explained. “I was like, ‘Daddy, we’re going to be OK.’ And he started crying and said, ‘No.’ That’s the last time I saw him conscious.”

Following his death, the Portillo family chose to donate the soccer ref’s organs to patients in need. They have expressed comfort at the thought that he will continue to help others, even in death. “We had to do something good,” his daughter explained. “I’m peaceful right now. He’s going to help other people.”

Although the 17-year-old who allegedly punched the soccer ref is being currently being held on suspicion of aggravated assault, he will likely face some type of criminal charges now that Portillo has died.

[Top image via Shutterstock]