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Referee dies after being punched at soccer match

Updated: 
July 2, 2014 - 12:05am

DETROIT — A man who was punched in the head over the weekend while refereeing an adult-league soccer match in suburban Detroit died Tuesday, authorities and a longtime friend of the referee said.

John Bieniewicz, who was attacked Sunday at a park in Livonia, died at Detroit Receiving Hospital, said hospital spokesman Alton Gunn, Livonia police and the man’s longtime friend, Jim Acho.

Police Lt. Tom Goralski said a 36-year-old man punched Bieniewicz in the head after the referee indicated he planned to eject the man from the game. Baseel Abdul-Amir Saad of Dearborn was arraigned Monday on a charge of assault with intent to do great bodily harm. The Wayne County prosecutor’s office said the charges would be reviewed and possibly amended when it had the necessary documentation.

Bieniewicz, 44, was a dialysis technician at Mott Children’s Hospital who lived in the Detroit suburb of Westland with his wife and two sons, said Acho, who was a classmate of Bieniewicz’s at Catholic Central High School.

“I speak for all his friends when I say we are devastated. Crushed. Just a senseless way for a great guy to go out,” Acho said. “He deserved better.”

Bieniewicz, Acho said, was the only student-athlete in the class of 1988 to letter in both football and basketball at the ultra-competitive Detroit-area parochial school. Acho, who ran a basketball camp with Bieniewicz for four years after high school, said his 6-foot-5 friend would “wow the kids with dunks.”

But much to the surprise of his friends, Bieniewicz gravitated to soccer. He had been a well-respected referee for two decades.

Saad’s lawyer, Brian Berry, said his client was cooperating with police and was not guilty of the charge.