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Dalian Atkinson death police officers under criminal investigation

Published 18/08/2016

Two police officers are under criminal investigation following the death of ex-Aston Villa footballer Dalian Atkinson after he was shot with a Taser.

The 48-year-old died 90 minutes after a West Mercia Police officer Tasered the former sportsman in the street where he grew up in Telford, Shropshire, in the early hours of Monday.

The retired striker'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."

West Mercia Police said it had suspended both officers and was co-operating fully with the IPCC's criminal inquiry, which is being run from Birmingham.

The IPCC also revealed the results of a post-mortem examination on Mr Atkinson carried out on Wednesday were "inconclusive" and further tests had been ordered.

The watchdog has said it will look into the level and type of force used.

Relatives said Mr 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."

Mr 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."

Mr Atkinson's brother Kenroy, 53, previously said the former footballer 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.

In a statement on the force's website, West Mercia's chief constable Anthony Bangham said his thoughts were with Mr Atkinson's friends and family.

He said: "I wish to express my deepest sympathies to the family and friends of Dalian who are going through this traumatic time.

"I would like to reassure his family and the community that we will fully co-operate with the IPCC.

"We respect the position of the IPCC and have today suspended two officers from duty.

"We understand the need for answers when a tragedy like this occurs and we will provide the IPCC with all the information they need to ensure a rigorous and transparent investigation takes place."

He said the force would "ensure" that the community in Telford were "fully engaged with and listened to" as the inquiry continues.

Mr Atkinson was a top-flight striker in the 1990s, starting his career at Ipswich Town 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.

Police use of Tasers, which are intended as a non-lethal weapon, went up slightly last year with 10,329 uses by forces in England and Wales, a 2% rise on the previous year.

However, of those, 19% (1,921) were discharges - a decrease of 3% from the previous year.

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