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Police release 911 call in punching death of Michigan soccer referee

By Zachary Slater, CNN
updated 9:53 AM EDT, Thu July 3, 2014
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Police release 911 call in punching death of Michigan soccer referee by player
  • Caller says, "The referee is knocked out. He's not waking up"
  • John Bieniewicz, 44, died at hospital after what police say was an unprovoked attack
  • Baseel Abdul-Amir Saad, 36, faces an assault charge

(CNN) -- A 911 call released Wednesday recounts the moments after soccer referee John Bieniewicz was fatally punched in the head by a player during an adult-league soccer match in Michigan.

"The referee is knocked out," a female caller frantically told a 911 operator on Sunday. "He's not waking up."

Bieniewicz, 44, an avid soccer fan and referee who sometimes officiated up to three games a weekend, died Tuesday. In a state where football and basketball reign, Bieniewicz's passion was soccer, a childhood friend recalled.

"He loved the game of soccer. He loved refereeing; it was like free time to him," Greg Acho, the friend, told CNN. "He died doing what he loved."

Player punches, kills referee

The woman who called police also described the alleged suspect fleeing the scene as the victim was unconscious on the field.

"It looks like a ... oh God, they're peeling out," she told the operator. "It's a Jeep. It's a black Jeep Wrangler. They're peeling out of the parking lot right now."

The suspect left the scene, she said. An ambulance was needed. The operator asked what did they hit him with.

"His fist, yeah, in the middle of the game," the woman said

The woman said the referee was not breathing. Others on the field attempted CPR.

Bieniewicz was pronounced dead at Detroit Receiving Hospital after what police said was an unprovoked attack. A supervisor at Mott Children's Hospital in Ann Arbor said he was in critical condition when he arrived the hospital, police said.

The Wayne County Medical Examiner's office will determine the cause of death, police said.

Baseel Abdul-Amir Saad, 36, has been charged with assault with intent to do great bodily harm less than murder. He was being held on $500,000 bail, police said. He pleaded not guilty. A hearing was set for July 10.

Bieniewicz is survived by his wife and two sons, 13 and 9. His friends have established a GoFundMe.com account for his family that had raised nearly $60,000 by Wednesday afternoon.

Acho said donations will be used to cover medical expenses, funeral costs and to start a college fund for his children.

Bieniewicz was an organ donor, Acho said.

"John Bieniewicz was a man who lived life to the fullest," friends wrote on a website dedicated to his memory. "He had a passion for his family, a passion for the kids at Mott Children's Hospital, and a passion for soccer."

Saad's defense lawyer, Brian Berry, expressed his condolences to the family of the referee but told CNN Tuesday that all the facts in the case had not come out and that "witness accounts may have been miscategorized."

The website dedicated to the victim added, "The boys will miss his fatherly guidance and support but they will also miss his financial support, and we are here to help that in a small way. If you were touched by John, or merely share his love of soccer, we ask that in his name you donate to his children's futures."

Last year, a 17-year-old soccer player in Utah pleaded guilty to homicide by assault in the death of referee Ricardo Portillo. A judge ordered the teenager, who was not named publicly, to keep a picture of Portillo in his cell for the remainder of his time in juvenile jail.

The judge recommended a sentence of three years, said Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill. The teen also was ordered to write weekly letters to Portillo's family, telling them what steps he is taking to return to normal life.

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CNN's Laura Ly contributed to this report.

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