Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — The daughter of a soccer referee who died Saturday a week after being punched in the head by an angry player during a match said her whole family is hurting in the wake of his tragic death.
Ricardo Portillo, 46, died late Saturday night after being in a coma for several days. He was officiating a game on April 27 and issued a yellow card during the game, penalizing a 17-year-old player. The player punched Portillo in the head, police said.
“I just want the person who did this to know that when he did it, he took a part of me with him,” Johana Portillo-Lopez said during a news conference Sunday evening. “He took my daddy away from me.”
Portillo's injuries were first considered minor, but swelling eventually led to a coma and he had been in critical condition during the week.
The 17-year-old was booked into the juvenile detention center following the incident. Police have not released his name. The teen is expected to be formally charged by the Salt Lake County District Attorney's Office early next week, and may face additional charges in light of Portillo's death.
Portillo-Lopez said she felt sorry for the young man and she felt sympathy for the suspect’s family, “But if he was old enough to do what he did, then he is responsible to pay for it.”
When asked what punishment she would like to see for the teenage suspect, she said, “I really don’t care what happens to him, because whatever punishment he gets, it won’t bring my dad back.”
Portillo-Lopez said she doesn’t want him to “get out and do it to another family.”
“I don’t want another family to suffer what we’re going though,“ she said.
The comments came as the family and friends held a candlelight vigil outside their Glendale home Sunday evening, supported my many community members. Family members were dressed in white holding signs that read, “In loving memory of Ricky.”
She described her father as a “great person who was outgoing and very happy and never had bad feelings for anybody.”
Portillo came to America from Guadalajara, Mexico 17 years ago, his daughter said. He had officiated soccer games for about eight years.
She said the incident that eventually cost her father his life was the third incidence of violence he had experienced as a soccer referee during the past decade. Previously, he suffered broken ribs and a broken leg following incidents of violence from irate players while officiating games.
“We told him to stop, but it was his passion,” Portillo-Lopez said.
She urged soccer leagues to increase their efforts to provide security for referees so that no more tragedies would occur.
“This has to be serious,” she said. “They have to do something about it.”
Dick Friedman, chairman of the Utah State Soccer Referee Committee issued the following statement Sunday in response to the death:
"Our first priority above all is for the safety of all involved, whether it be the players or referees.
"Violence in the game is unacceptable. The Utah State Soccer Referee Committee and the leagues that we serve have a zero tolerance policy for aggressive behavior of this kind," he said.
He noted that the state soccer referee committee oversees the referee program for United States Soccer Federation games in Utah. The federation did not sanction the game in question and Portillo was not a part of the referee group.
" Incidents such as the one involving Mr. Portillo are very rare," Friedman said.
Portillo-Lopez said her family will take some comfort in the fact that many people’s lives will be better because her father's organs were donated to others.
“For me, it’s knowing that he will still be around with us,” she said. “When he passed away, we knew he had already saved a lot of lives.”
Portillo leaves behind three daughters, many relatives and friends. Funeral arrangements are pending, with services expected to be conducted Wednesday.
When asked if she would ever be able to forgive the man responsible for her father’s death, Portillo-Lopez responded: “I will, but not today. Not right now. It’s too soon.”.
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