Livonia — A 911 call has been released detailing the events following the fatal attack on a soccer referee who was punched in an adult game after issuing a red card to one of the players.
Soccer referee John Bieniewicz, 44, of Westland died Tuesday after police say he was brutally struck by a player he evicted from a Sunday game at Mies Park. The 911 caller, Sherene Winkler of Lathrup Village, told police the suspected player fled with another man immediately after the incident, according to audio released by Livonia Police Department on Wednesday.
“We have somebody who just assaulted a referee,” Winkler tells a Livonia police dispatcher in audio obtained by The News. “I’m at a soccer game, and right now, they are running to their car.”
Seconds later, the sound of squealing tires can be heard.
“Oh God, they are peeling out,” Winkler says.
After giving the dispatcher a description of the vehicle, Winkler, who attended the game Sunday to see her husband play, turned her attention to Bieniewicz.
“We also need an ambulance,” she says. “The referee is knocked out, and he is not waking up.”
After being asked to check if Bieniewicz was breathing, she eventually replies “No, no...”
“I called more so to give a description to police, because EMS had already been called,” Winkler told The News in an interview Wednesday. “But I called again after five minutes because they still weren’t there, and that’s when John started to turn blue.”
At the time, one player, who is a doctor, performed CPR on Bieniewicz while they anxiously waited for paramedics to arrive.
In the meantime, the player suspected of throwing the devastating haymaker walked off the field.
“Players followed him, saying, ‘You’re going to go to jail,’ ” Winkler said. “I guess that’s when he got spooked, got in his car and sped away.”
Bieniewicz died Tuesday at Detroit Receiving Hospital.
According to police, the attack occurred at 11:59 a.m. Sunday during an adult soccer match at the park located in the 32000 block of West Chicago.
Baseel Abdul-Amir Saad, 36, of Dearborn, who was charged Monday with assault with intent to do great bodily harm less than murder, is now expected to be charged with homicide later this week by the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office.
Saad turned himself in to police about 24 hours following the incident. He was accompanied by his attorney when he came into the Livonia Police Department Monday afternoon, said Livonia Police Lt. Tom Goralski Wednesday.
Saad was not in the vehicle that reportedly left the scene Sunday following the assault on Bieniewicz. The vehicle, reported by witnesses at the scene as a Jeep, was stopped not far from the Mies Park but Saad was not in it, said Goralski.
The driver of the vehicle was detained Sunday. He was released the same day.
“He is part of that investigation,” Goralski said.
It is not known if the man will also face charges in the incident.
Witnesses said Saad became angry about being ejected during Sunday’s match and punched Bieniewicz in the head.
There were several witnesses to the attack, including 39-year-old soccer player Scott Herkes.
“As (Bieniewicz) presented the red card, the player (Saad) reeled back and swung, hitting him across the face and kind of in the neck,” Herkes told The Detroit News. “He dropped immediately.
“... First, it was just complete shock and disbelief, then guys rushed in to separate the two. We don’t know if he would have continued the assault, but a lot of players converged to calm everything down.”
Daniel Winkler, Sherene’s husband, who also participated in the game, said Saad was given a yellow card for a hard foul earlier. His second yellow card, which results in a red card, meaning ejection from the game, was a result of obscenities and taunts directed at Bieniewicz.
“He didn’t get (the red card) off the foul,” Daniel Winkler said. “He got it for trash talking the ref. He said ‘You (explelative) blah, blah, blah’ in his native language. He (Bieniewicz) didn’t and he shouldn’t have to take it.”
Before the fatal altercation, Bieniewicz told him at a halftime that he looked forward to officiating two other soccer matches, Daniel Winkler said.
“That just showed his passion for the game,” he said.
On Wednesday, the Michigan State Soccer Referee Association released a lengthy statement about Bieniewicz’s death.
“Unfortunately, there are times when players or fans forget about the game and displace their frustrations in manners that impact everyone. This is noted in the tragic death of John Bieniewicz,” read the letter released by the association’s committee Wednesday.
“John’s tragic death is a painful loss to the soccer community — and youth soccer in Michigan — but this pales in comparison to the loss to the Bieniewicz family and thousands of persons who John touched in his short life.”
Bieniewicz will remain on a ventilator until his vital organs are harvested and donated through the Gift of Life program this week, said family friend Jim Acho.
Meanwhile, Saad “voluntarily walked into the Livonia Police Station for booking,” said his attorney, Brian T. Berry.
Bieniewicz was a soccer referee for two decades and was certified on the collegiate, high school and elementary school levels. He also worked in pediatric chronic dialysis care for the University of Michigan Health System. He received a 10-year service award in 2011, according to the health system’s website.
Despite being a football and basketball standout at Catholic Central High School, Acho said Bieniewicz developed a passion for soccer while in college. He graduated from the University of Michigan-Dearborn in 1993.
Berry expressed sympathy to Bieniewicz’s family Tuesday, saying “our hearts are saddened to learn of this loss of Mr. John Bieniewicz ... may God bless him and his family at this time as they deal with this loss.”
Berry said his client was not the aggressor in Sunday’s incident but also that he was “not suggesting” that Bieniewicz had attacked his client. Saad is “prepared to defend against the allegations brought against him,” Berry said.
“The facts of the case have been mischaracterized,” Berry said. “As tragic as this event is, we must keep our minds open until all the facts are in.”
Berry said Saad is the father of four and works as an auto mechanic in Detroit.
Saad has been playing soccer for about two years without any prior incidents during soccer matches, Berry said.
Meanwhile, at least two memorial funds have been set up to help pay for Bieniewicz’s funeral expenses and to assist with the education of his two sons, ages 9 and 13.
One is at the website Johnbieniewiczmemorial.com. Another fund has been set up through Huntington Bank. Contributions to the Huntington Bank fund can be left at the Livonia Police Department, 15050 Farmington Road in Livonia or at any Huntington Bank branch in the state.