Local soccer ref on violence: 'It's always out there'

BOISE, Idaho (KBOI) -- A Treasure Valley soccer referee said what happened to a Utah ref can happen anywhere, anytime.

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.

Police say the 17-year-old, whose name hasn't been released, struck 46-year-old Ricardo Portillo in the side of the head during a recreational soccer league match after the referee called a penalty.
Portillo died Saturday after a week in a coma.

The teen is in juvenile detention on suspicion of aggravated assault.

He may face more severe charges.

And KBOI News talked to one veteran soccer referee locally who said he's felt threatened here in the Treasure Valley.

"Absolutely. You feel there's a possibility of violence," said Hank Brotzman. "I've been doing this long enough that I know how to handle it personally. But it's always out there. The coach can explode and the next thing, the team does too."

But Brotzman said the Utah incident happened at an unsanctioned match, where things are more likely to get out of hand.

The key is education, he said.

But it's a lesson that seems hard to learn.

(The Associated Press contributed to this story.)