Some harrowing details emerged in the probable cause hearing for Bassel Saad, the American man charged with murder after punching and killing referee John Bieniewicz in a Michigan men’s league soccer game.
Bieniewicz was felled by one punch from Saad, witnesses testified, as the referee prepared to brandish a red card. Saad, an auto mechanic, had a previous yellow and was earning a second for verbal abuse.
The referee fell to the turf with a yellow in one hand and the red in the other, and later died from his injuries.
From Mike Householder of the Associated Press comes a recap of the testimony, including that of Saad’s teammate Dr. Jamal Saleh:
The punch, which Saleh said landed around the head and neck area, caused Bieniewicz to “fall back without any control of his body.”
Saleh said he rushed toward Bieniewicz, who was on his back grasping a yellow card in one hand and a red card in the other.
A skirmish erupted between players following the attack. Saleh said he quickly checked on Bieniewicz and the referee initially was not breathing but had a pulse.
Saleh said he performed CPR and told the unconscious Bieniewicz: “Wake up, buddy. You’re going to be OK.”
Bieniewicz, tragically, was not.
Witnesses also testified that Saad, 36, removed his shirt and immediately left the field. When another player followed Saad into the parking lot to get his license place number, he was reportedly photographed making an obscene gesture.
Prosecutors were denied in their attempts to include an on-field incident involving Saad back in 2005.
Saad was emotional in previous hearings — including the powerful image at right — and the whole incident should give anyone pause to reflect on how they act in amateur soccer matches, especially upon consideration of how often things happen that could turn out to inflict permanent damage on the opponent or official.
Without jumping to conclusions, it’s difficult to imagine that Saad’s punch was intended to end Bieniewicz’s life but that matters very little. Whether the intention should change the eventual consequences of his actions is another discussion altogether (perhaps one for the courts to decide).
Our thoughts continue to be with the Bieniewicz family and Michigan soccer community.