July 30, 2014 at 1:00 am

Police: Soccer player accused of fatally punching referee made obscene gesture

Bassel Abdul-Amir Saad sobs during his as preliminary exam on Wednesday. (Todd McInturf / The Detroit News)

Livonia The Dearborn soccer player who is accused of fatally punching a referee made an obscene gesture as he fled the scene, according to a Livonia police detective.

In a preliminary exam hearing on Wednesday for Baseel Abdul-Amir Saad, who is charged with second-degree murder, prosecutors presented an enhanced photo of him fleeing in a black Jeep with a teammate moments after witnesses and police say he fatally punched referee John Bieniewicz.

“It appears his right arm is extended with his middle finger extended,” Detective Dennis Burklow testified during the hearing.

Witnesses said the act followed Saad, 36, delivering a severe blow to Bieniewicz after the soccer official issued him a red card, effectively ejecting him from the game on June 29 at Mies Park on West Chicago in Livonia.

“He brought his arm back behind his back ... and swung it across his body,” said Scott Herkes, who played against Saad in that game.

Meanwhile, Saad, who appeared before Judge Kathleen McCann at 16th District Court, hung his head and sobbed heavily with tears falling into his lap during moments of testimony.

Several witnesses, and later the prosecution, described the attack as a “sucker punch.”

Jamal Saleh, a teammate of Saad’s, testified he saw Bieniewicz fully raise a second yellow card before he went to raise the red card, which he was never able to hold over his head.

“He did not see the punch coming,” Saleh said.

Wayne County Assistant Prosecutor Erika Tusar showed a photo of a skirmish between the two teams that Saleh said was taken about five seconds after the punch. Bieniewicz is shown lying flat on his back with a yellow card in his right hand and red card in his left while the two teams were in an apparent physical altercation.

No further punches were thrown after Bieniewicz fell, but Herkes testified that a player on one of the teams might have been put into a headlock. Saleh, a doctor three years out of medical school, then turned his attention to Bieniewicz to “talk him out of it.”

“I said ‘Wake up buddy you are going to be OK,’ ” Saleh said. “I poured cold water on him. He began to turn blue.”

Saleh felt a pulse, but no breathing from Bieniewicz. Saleh said he attempted CPR, but it was unsuccessful.

Bieniewicz died two days after the assault in Detroit Receiving Hospital. The Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office then elevated Saad’s initial charge of assault with intent to do great bodily harm less than murder to second-degree murder.

Prior to the punch, teams played hard, battling for possession, but “it was definitely was not dirty,” testified witness and player Joseph Consenza, another one of Saad’s opponent.

The hearing, to determine if there is enough evidence to send the case to trial, resumes today.

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