Wednesday 7 December 2016

Two police officers told they face criminal probe over Dalian Atkinson's taser death

Nina Massey

Published 18/08/2016 | 18:48

Dalian Atkinson in his playing days with Aston Villa.
Dalian Atkinson in his playing days with Aston Villa.

Two West Mercia officers are under criminal investigation following the death of former Aston Villa striker Dalian Atkinson after he was Tasered by police.

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The 48-year-old died 90 minutes after a West Mercia Police officer shot him with a stun gun in the street where he grew up in Telford, Shropshire, in the early hours of Monday.

The retired footballer's death is being investigated by the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC), which said it would carry out "a full and thorough" inquiry.

In a statement, the IPCC said: "Two West Mercia Police officers have been advised they are under criminal investigation and are also being served with gross misconduct notices.

"A criminal investigation does not mean that criminal charges will necessarily follow.

"The IPCC investigation is at an early stage, and the position will be kept under review as the investigation progresses."

The watchdog will look into the level and type of force used during the incident.

Relatives said Atkinson was "not in his right mind", was suffering a number of health issues and had a weak heart when he was hit with the weapon at about 1.30am.

He went into cardiac arrest in an ambulance on his way to hospital and medics were unable to save him.

IPCC commissioner Derrick Campbell said: "Having carefully considered the evidence gathered so far, we are undertaking a criminal investigation into the circumstances surrounding Mr Atkinson's death and the level and type of force used.

"Two police officers will be interviewed under criminal caution by IPCC investigators."

Atkinson's family welcomed the announcement and expressed its desire for a "robust" investigation.

In a statement released through charity INQUEST, it said: "We are still in shock as to the circumstances in which Dalian died. We are determined to get justice for him, which means getting to the truth.

"We welcome the IPCC's decision that this will be a criminal investigation and emphasise their request that there should be no speculation in the media as to what happened to Dalian, as this could prejudice the criminal investigation and any potential prosecution.

"We ask that anyone with information about what happened to Dalian in the early hours of Monday August 15 2016 contacts the IPCC.

"We are looking to the IPCC to carry out a thorough and robust investigation that will ultimately provide transparency and accountability. Dalian's memory requires nothing less."

Atkinson's brother Kenroy, 53, previously said the ex-Premier League star had undergone dialysis for kidney failure and was "in a manic state and depressed" at the time of the incident.

He said his brother had attacked their 85-year-old father Ernest at his home before police were called to the scene.

West Mercia Police said officers were called amid concerns "for the safety of an individual" and then deployed the stun guns.

Atkinson was a top-flight striker in the 1990s, starting his career at Ipswich then playing for Sheffield Wednesday and Spanish side Real Sociedad before moving to Villa.

He scored 23 goals in 85 appearances for the Birmingham side between 1991 and 1995, before going on to play less successfully for teams including Turkish side Fenerbahce and Manchester City. He ended his playing career in South Korea in 2001.

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