Most of us, have heard the heart-breaking story of the soccer referee, in Utah, that was struck on the side of the head by a 17-year old player.  The blow to the head caused Ricardo Portillo, age 46, to lapse into a coma and after a week in the hospital, he died of his injuries.  The teenager was playing goalie during a game at Eisenhower Junior High School in Taylorsville when Portillo issued him a yellow card for pushing an opposing forward trying to score. In soccer, a yellow card is given as a warning to a player for an egregious violation of the rules. Two yellow cards lead to a red card and expulsion from the game.

According to the official police report the teenager, whose name has never been released, and who was apparently quite a bit heavier than Portillo, began arguing with the referee, then punched him in the face. Portillo seemed fine at first, and then asked to be held because he felt dizzy.  He sat down and started vomiting blood, triggering his friend to call an ambulance.

When police arrived around noon, the teenager was gone and Portillo was laying on the ground in the fetal position.  Through translators, Portillo told emergency workers that his face and back hurt and he felt nauseous.  He had no visible injuries and remained conscious.  He was considered to be in fair condition when they took him to the Intermountain Medical Center.  But when Portillo arrived at the hospital, he slipped into a coma with swelling in his brain.  Johana Portillo, his 26-year–old daughter, then called detectives to let them know his condition had worsened.

That’s when detectives intensified their search for the goalie. By Saturday evening, the teenager’s father agreed to bring him down to speak with police.  The teen is now in juvenile detention on suspicion of aggravated assault and has remained there ever since.  He may face more severe charges.

Daughter Johana Portillo, 26, said last week that she wasn’t at the April 27 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.  ”When he was writing down his notes, he just came out of nowhere and punched him,”

Portillo’s family said he had been attacked before, and Johanna Portillo said she and her sisters had pleaded with their father to stop refereeing because of the risk from angry players, but he continued because he loved soccer.  This was not the first time that Portillo had been injured, as a direct result of angry players and had even suffered broken ribs from being pushed or punched.  ”It was his passion,” she said. ”We could not tell him no.”  Now they’re faced with planning his funeral after he succumbed to injuries late Saturday.

A Utah prosecutor says he plans to decide within a day or two what charges to file against a teenager accused of punching a soccer referee who later died after slipping into a coma.  Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill says he and his team are reviewing the evidence and state statutes to determine appropriate charges. Gill says there are strict rules to follow because the suspect is a juvenile. An autopsy is planned.  No cause of death was released.

The unaffiliated soccer league, Liga Continental de Futbol, updated its Facebook posting Sunday with a tribute to Portillo including a number of photographs of him refereeing and playing soccer. It also set up a bank account to accept donations for his family. No plans have been announced for a funeral or memorial services.  Mario Vazquez, the league president who also was a friend and worked with Portillo, said Sunday everyone in the league had the greatest respect for him.

After reading some of the comments that were on social media concerning this issue, there are obviously different viewpoints about this event and also what, if any, further criminal charges, should be filed against this youth.

My comment is as follows:  we need to wake up America and start addressing this problem of teenage violence and their misguided belief that this type of behavior is ok.  As gangs have proliferated in our inner cities and now threaten even our smaller communities, it is well past time, to start fixing the problem and not bury our heads in the sand.  For years, community leaders and the local police have staunchly denied the existence of any gang activity in many communities, including my hometown, while these same officials were having city crews painting over gang tags.

When you lose parental control and guidance, you have youth who feel that violence is an acceptable response to being told “no.”   That yellow card given to that goalie, was that statement that you cannot continue to act this way and we all saw what his immediate response was.  Some people think that we should be lenient because he is a minor.  I have two things to say about that, and they are:

This teenager was big enough physically and also thought that he was tough enough, to attack another adult, thus he should be charged as an adult and face adult consequences.  Also, if he had had any compassion or remorse, he never would have left the soccer field before the police arrived.  But, instead, he left with no thought toward the person he attacked.  He should face the same lack of consideration that he displayed toward this man that he killed.

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