The death of former Aston Villa player Dalian Atkinson, after he was Tasered by police officers in Telford, Shropshire, early on Monday morning, has sparked a debate about the use of Tasers and deadly force by police officers in the U.K.
Atkinson, 48, was visiting his father’s house in Trench area when the West Mercia Police received a call at about 1:30 a.m. from a neighbor who expressed safety concerns, according to the Sun. Police officers were subsequently dispatched to the area.
One neighbor told the press that she saw Atkinson “stumbling towards” the police before he was fired upon with a Taser, according to the BBC. The neighbor also claims to have heard police officers warn Atkinson before they Tasered him.
Atkinson died about 90 minutes after he was shot with a Taser, according to the Shropshire Star. He was reportedly being transported to the Princess Royal Hospital when he went into cardiac arrest and died.
The West Mercia Police said in a statement that the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) is investigating the incident.
“IPCC investigators are at the scene gathering the available information and are attending the post incident procedures to supervise the recovery of initial evidence,” the IPCC said in a statement. “The IPCC is conducting a full and thorough investigation into all of the circumstances surrounding his death including the use of force.”
Dalian Atkinson’s death has made headlines across the world. It has also fueled a debate about the use of force by the police.
Atkinson’s nephew, Fabian Atkinson, told the press that the police should assess the medical history of a person before they decide to use a Taser on him/her. He revealed that Atkinson had been on dialysis, and his heart was weak, the BBC reported.
Many people have questioned the use of Tasers by the police after the former British soldier Spencer Beynon was killed June when a police officer used a Taser on him, according to the BBC. Police officers were reportedly concerned about his behavior before they Tasered him. Beynon, who served with the British Army in Iraq and Afghanistan, had been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.
While authorities have said the use of powerful tools like Tasers must be proportional to the force being confronted, it remains unclear how officers are to judge when a situation is appropriate to use a Taser.
Atkinson’s death has also highlighted the racial divide in the U.K., with some people calling for Black Lives Matter protests. The police are said to be three times more likely to use a Taser against a black person than a person of any other race in the U.K. Although black people make up just four percent of the U.K.’s population, data released by the U.K. Home Office shows that about 12 percent of the cases of the police using Taser against a person between 2010 and 2015 involved a black person, according to the Guardian.
It is unclear what sort of threat Atkinson posed in his father’s property that made a neighbor call the cops and also made the officers shoot him with a Taser. However, Atkinson’s father, Ernest Atkinson, told the press that his son appeared to have been inebriated and was in a “real state” before the police arrived, the Sun reported.
“I don’t know if he was drunk or on drugs but he was agitated and his mind was upset,” he said, adding that he was “threatening and very upset.”
Condolences have been flowing on social media since Dalian Atkinson’s death was confirmed.
— Ian Taylor (@IanTaylor7) August 15, 2016
Shocked and Stunned to wake up to the death of @DalianAtkinson, a friend and mentor to me. He was a glass half full human being.
— Ugo Ehiogu (@UgoEhiogu) August 15, 2016
— Fenerbahce_EN (@Fenerbahce_EN) August 15, 2016
— Aston Villa History (@AVFC_History) August 15, 2016
Dalian Atkinson played for several prominent teams during his football career including Aston Villa, Manchester City, Fenerbahce, Saudi Arabia’s Al-Ittihad Club, and South Korea’s Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors, where he retired in 2001.
Carlton Palmer, who once played with Dalian Atkinson on the same team, said Atkinson did not finish his football career financially secure was “was scratching around doing stuff,” the BBC reported.
[Photo by Brunskill/Allsport/Getty Images]