Referee attacks on the rise as victims call on Lansing for tougher laws

SOUTHFIELD, Mich. (WXYZ) - Violent attacks against local referees are putting lives at risk. Now, a victim is sharing her powerful story and urging state leaders to pass a better law.

"She two hand pushed me in the chest, and ripped my whistle off my neck. My Fitbit broke and fell on the ground" says victim Kamaria Douglas. "Just this summer alone, there's been several instances where fans have pursued referees."

Several years ago, it was a local soccer ref killed after being sucker punched in the head at a game in Livonia that grabbed national headlines.

Sadly, despite numerous calls for a tougher law to be passed, there's been almost no progress at the state capitol.

Kamaria tells us she was also fearing for her own life, back on May 6th, during the attack at Livonia Churchill High School during a travel league game. The parent who attacked her had become angry over a penalty issued to her 16-year-old son.

"Psychologically, I'm at a place where it's really tough for me to go back out there," says Douglas.

Another altercation also took place in Hazel Park last winter, when a different referee was chased off the court by an angry mob.

Most horrifying of all, was the death of 44-year-old husband and father John Bieniewicz in Livonia. His attacker, Bassel Saad was sentenced to prison for his crime, but the victim's loved ones still haven't gotten laws changed as they had hoped.

Attorney Jim Dworman is also a referee, supporting a more severe penalty.

"Around the country, 19 states have made this type of assault a felony," says Dworman.

In the case of Kamaria's attack, Heather Ann Rainey was sentenced to 15 days in jail or community service. She did not return calls for comment. 

Kamaria calls it a slap on the wrist, which underscores the need for a better law.

While legislation has already been introduced in the state senate, no vote is scheduled.

We'll stay on top of this to make sure state lawmakers are held accountable.

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