British prosecutors have charged a police officer with murder, which he allegedly used unnecessary force against a former black Premier League footballer who died after being kicked in the head and shot with an electric shock.
Dalian Atkinson, 48, a former Aston Villa star, suffered a heart attack on the way to hospital and died about 90 minutes after officers used a Taser on him to subdue him during a 2016 brawl.
Prosecutors say West Mercia police officer Benjamin Monk, 42, used a stunning 33-second pistol against Atkinson – more than six times longer than standard.
Authorities have charged Monk with murder and manslaughter after a three-year investigation.
Monk’s colleague, police officer Mary Ellen Betley-Smith, 31, is also facing trial for assault. The two appeared in the Royal Court in Birmingham on Tuesday to begin their trial. Both employees deny wrongdoing.
The case sparked a dispute over the use of electroshock weapons in a country where police rarely carry firearms.
Blacks were three times more likely to be involved in stunning gun incidents than whites from 2011 to 2015, according to Interior Ministry statistics obtained by the BBC.
Prosecutor Alexandra Healy told the court that police were called for disturbance at Atkinson’s father’s home in Telford after midnight on August 15, 2016, after neighbors said they heard the football player screaming in the street.
She said Atkinson, who had serious health problems, including end-stage renal disease, turned to police and Monk used his stun gun twice ineffectively. The third deployment of the muffler deactivated Atkinson and caused him to fall forward on the road, she said.
“The default default setting for the Taser is a five-second phase, but it is possible to undo this by continuing to pull the trigger,” the jury prosecutor said.
“And PC Monk kept pressing the trigger for more than six times the length of the standard five-second phase.”
Prosecutors also say Monk kicked Atkinson hard enough to leave fingerprints on his forehead.
Healy said Monk did not act in self-defense when he kicked Atkinson twice in the head.
“He was no doubt angry that he was scared of this man. He chose to vent his anger on Dalian Atkinson by kicking him in the head,” she said.
Prosecutors say that although Atkinson’s basic health conditions meant he was “at significantly increased risk of dying,” he would not have died tonight had it not been for the third deployment of a stunning weapon and kicks to the head.
Atkinson was a striker who played in England’s best division for Sheffield Wednesday and Aston Villa. It was at Villa that he scored one of the most famous goals in the Premier League – against Wimbledon in October 1992, when he escaped from his inner half, avoided a number of challenges, then passed the ball over the goalkeeper and went into the net.
He scored 20 goals in the Premier League for Villa and also reached the final of the League Cup in 1994 in the team’s 3-1 victory over Manchester United.
Atkinson had spells with Real Sociedad in Spain, Fenerbahce in Turkey, and also in South Korea. His one season at Sociedad came in 1990-91, a time when English players rarely played abroad.