The referee assaulted in a Sunday afternoon rec league soccer game by a player he was about to eject from the match has been declared legally dead.
Wayne County prosecutors told the Detroit Free Press that upgraded charges will be filed against Bassel Abdul-Amir Saad, 36, of Dearborn, who is being held on $500,000 bond on charges of assault with intent to do great bodily harm. Police announced the death of John Bieniewicz, 44, of Westland in a news release Tuesday.
James Acho, Bieniewicz’s friend of 30 years, told the newspaper that his friend is being kept alive on life support until his organs can be harvested and donated through the Gift of Life program.
Prosecutors office spokeswoman Maria Miller said charges will be amended once official confirmation is obtained. Witnesses said Saad “sucker punched” Bieniewicz, knocking him cold with one punch, because he was upset over a second violation in that meant he would be thrown out of Sunday’s match in Livonia.
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The Free Press said Saad’s attorney, Brian Berry, said in an email that the “facts of this case have been mischaracterized.”
“As tragic as this event is, we must keep open minds and listen and wait for all the facts of this case to unfold,” he wrote in an email to the newspaper.
Witnesses to the assault on Bieniewicz described it as “terrifying” and said it made a grim statement about a growing trend for violence against referees and officials in amateur and youth sports activities.
“All that for a meaningless, know-nothing over 30 men’s recreational league,” Joseph Cosenza, who witnessed the attack on Bieniewicz, told WJBK, Channel 2. “We want to go and play … but it’s not worth playing anymore because this is starting to happen.”
Bieniewicz is the second official to die of injuries inflicted by an irate soccer player in a year. In Utah last year, a referee died after he was assaulted by a 17-year-old player who was upset over a foul, the Associated Press/WWJ-TV reports.
Friends have established a fund at JohnBieniewiczMemorial.com to assist Bieniewicz’s family – he leaves behind a wife and two children – with funeral and burial expenses.
They described him as a man who died doing what he loved: officiating a soccer game.
“John Bieniewicz was a man who lived life to the fullest,” they wrote. “He had a passion for his family, a passion for the kids at Mott Children’s Hospital, and a passion for soccer.”