Former Aston Villa footballer Dalian Atkinson has died after being tasered to death by UK police near his father’s home in Telford.
Atkinson was hit with 50,000 volts of electricity at 1.30am on Monday after officer responded to reports of concerns for a person’s safety. He was pronounced dead just 90 minutes later.
The incident was automatically referred to the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) because it involved a death caused by police officers. West Mercia police said it was assisting the IPCC and was unable to comment further.
The IPCC confirmed it had launched an investigation. In a statement it said: “At this stage the IPCC is aware a Taser was used on the man before he became ill. The ambulance service attended but the man later died.
“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 is conducting a full and thorough investigation into all of the circumstances surrounding his death including the use of force.”
Forensic officers were at the scene on Monday and Meadow Close remained cordoned off. Neighbours said the former footballer had made frequent visits in his Porsche.
Matthew Bothwell said: “Every time he would come he would have crowds around him. It’s a close-knit community. I just can’t bear to think what his family are going through.”
Tina Bothwell said: “He was loving, caring and got on with everybody in the street. He always got on with the kids because they absolutely loved his car.”
Another resident, Paula Quinn, said Atkinson appeared to be “almost staggering” in the street before he was Tasered. She said he went down “like a lead balloon” after being hit by the stun gun.
Quinn said: “I heard shouting and something smashing, which is what alerted me to look out of the window. I am feeling a bit sick knowing that the poor lad has passed. I don’t care what anybody has done. Nobody deserves to die as a result of something like that.”
Tasers deliver an incapacitating 50,000-volt shock, and critics say the weapon is too often lethal. It has been linked to at least 10 deaths in England and Wales over the last decade. In 2013, Jordan Lee Begley, 23, died two hours after a Greater Manchester officer targeted him with a stun gun at his home. Police had been called to reports of an argument.
A West Midlands ambulance service spokesman said: “We were called by West Mercia police to an address in Meadow Close in the Trench area of Telford at about 1.45am this morning. An ambulance was dispatched and upon arrival found a man who had been Tasered.
“As he was being conveyed to Princess Royal hospital, his condition deteriorated and he went into cardiac arrest. Despite the efforts of the crew and hospital staff, it was not possible to save him and he was confirmed dead at hospital, shortly after arrival.”
Campaigners said Atkinson’s death highlighted the need for a UK version of the American Black Lives Matter movement, which was launched earlier this month to highlight police violence against members of the black community.
Kevin Maxwell, a former detective with Greater Manchester police and founder of Racism Ruins Lives, said: “Dalian Atkinson is a black man. Fact. He died in police custody. Fact. Black Lives Matter is about raising awareness of this.
“Clearly, we do not know the full circumstances of what took place, but the deaths of black people in custody are a matter of concern.
“Policing generally in Britain is disproportionate towards black people [who are] twice as likely to die in police custody than white people and 37 times more likely to be stopped and searched by the police than white people.”
Michael Naughton, reader in sociology and law at Bristol University, said: “The evidence is clear. Whether stop and search, deaths in police custody or deaths by the police during arrest. Black men (and their families) are massively disproportionately targeted and victimised in the UK, as in the US, by a system of policing that is systemically and institutionally racist.”
Atkinson achieved acclaim for his goal of the season against Wimbledon in 1992 as part of an Aston Villa team that went on to secure the runners-up spot in the first year of the Premier League.
He also scored at Wembley in 1994 as Villa beat Manchester United to lift the League Cup.
He started his career at Ipswich and then played for Sheffield Wednesday and the Spanish side Real Sociedad before moving to Villa. He was the first black player for Sociedad, scoring 12 goals in La Liga.
At Villa he scored more than 20 Premier League goals between 1991 and 1995 before going on to play less successfully for teams including the Turkish side Fenerbahçe and Manchester City.
He ended his playing career in South Korea in 2001. He was never capped for England, but was selected for the England B team.
Former teammates and fellow professionals expressed their shock and sorrow following the news of his death, including the former Villa and Australia goalkeeper Mark Bosnich.
RIP Dalian Atkinson,at his best one of the very best.xmb
— Mark Bosnich (@TheRealBozza) August 15, 2016
Tony Daley, who played for Aston Villa at the same time as Atkinson, tweeted: “Devastating news … RIP Dalian.” The former Blackburn and Celtic striker Chris Sutton tweeted his condolences to Atkinson’s family.
Terrible news about Dalian Atkinson. Thoughts for his family x
— Chris Sutton (@chris_sutton73) August 15, 2016
Ipswich Town paid tribute, tweeting: “Terribly sad news about our former striker. Our thoughts are with Dalian’s family and friends at this tragic time.”
Sheffield Wednesday tweeted: “The thoughts of everyone at Wednesday are with the friends and family of Dalian Atkinson this morning. RIP.”