Society

Soccer Referee Dies After Being Punched By a Player

| by Lisa Fogarty

A Michigan man has been charged with punching a soccer referee to death at an adult-league game after the ref tried to issue him a red card.

John Bieniewicz, 44, was taken to the hospital and reported to be in critical condition Saturday in Livonia after the father of two boys was allegedly punched in the head by Baseel Abdul-Amir Saad, 36, whom he had threatened to throw out of the game, reports Fox News. Witnesses say the referee was punched near his throat and fell to the ground without raising his arms. He was reportedly left unconscious on the field.

Bieniewicz was pronounced dead on Tuesday at the hospital. The Wayne County Medical Examiner’s office is still trying to determine the exact cause of his death, according to CNN.

Saad, meanwhile, has been charged with assault with intent to do great bodily harm and is being held on $500,000 bail, according to police. His hearing is set for July 10. The player reportedly gave the audience the middle finger after he attacked the referee and then walked off the field. When authorities arrived at the scene, he was nowhere to be found. Saad reportedly surrendered on Monday.

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Bieniewicz was a dialysis technician who lived with his wife and children, ages 9 and 13. Friends remember him as a star athlete at his high school who was particularly talented in basketball. He and a friend ran a basketball camp for four years and he had been serving as a soccer referee for 20 years.

“I speak for all his friends when I say we are devastated,” said Jim Acho, who was one of Bieniewicz’s childhood friends. “Crushed. Just a senseless way for a great guy to go out. He deserved better.”

Acho says the victim is being kept on a ventilator so that his organs can be donated through Gift of Life, USA Today notes. His friends have organized a campaign to help raise money for his family through the website JohnBieniewiczMemorial.com.

Sources: Fox News, CNN, USA Today