London (AFP) – Former Premier League star Dalian Atkinson, who played for Aston Villa and Spanish club Real Sociedad, died Monday after being Tasered by British police, relatives said.
Atkinson, 48, who played for Villa in the early 1990s and won the inaugural Premier League goal of the season award, had been battling kidney problems and had a weak heart, relatives said.
Police confirmed that officers were called to an address in Telford, western England, at around 1:30am (0030 GMT).
“Upon arrival Taser was deployed and a 48-year-old man, who subsequently received medical attention, was pronounced dead at approximately 3:00am,” said a police statement.
Neighbours said the address was the home of Atkinson’s father Ernest.
“He got Tasered in the street,” the 85-year-old said, cited by media reports. “He was in a real state. I don’t know if he was drunk or on drugs but he was very agitated,” he added.
“He was threatening and very upset. I didn’t call the police but someone else did.”
Neighbours reported that there had been “banging and shouting, and doors being kicked in” before police arrived, and that “Dalian was shouting about being homeless”.
The ambulance service said Atkinson went into cardiac arrest as he was being taken to Telford’s Princess Royal Hospital.
The former striker’s nephew Fabian Atkinson told reporters at the scene: “He had some health issues that he was trying to get through and that’s why his heart was weak”.
He said police should try to find out the history of the person involved before deciding whether to use electric shock guns.
“If you do deploy Taser, then you’ve got to deploy the ambulance as well,” he said.
– Police watchdog probe –
The incident has been referred to the Independent Police Complaints Commission watchdog.
“We have begun a full and thorough investigation into police contact with Dalian Atkinson prior to his death, including the level and type of force used,” said IPCC deputy chairwoman Rachel Cerfontyne.
“Our investigation team have been securing and preserving relevant evidence, and identifying witnesses.”
Atkinson’s death is likely to trigger a debate about police use of electronic stun guns. British police are not routinely armed.
Soldier Spencer Beynon died in June after being Tasered by police in Llanelli, south Wales, after stabbing a dog and then himself.
There were 10,329 incidents involving police Tasers in 2015, a two percent rise on the previous year, according to government figures.
– Goal-laden career –
Atkinson began his career at Ipswich Town, before moving to Sheffield Wednesday in 1989, where he made a name as a pacy and skilful striker despite the club’s relegation.
He scored for the England B team in 1990 in his only international appearance.
Atkinson then moved to Real Sociedad, scoring 12 goals in one season before returning to England to play for Aston Villa.
He scored the club’s first ever goal in the Premier League on August 15, 1992, and won the league’s inaugural competition’s goal-of-the-season competition as Villa finished second.
Atkinson also scored the opening goal of the 1994 League Cup final as Villa beat Manchester United. He later played for Manchester City and also played in Turkey, Saudi Arabia and South Korea.
Aston Villa will pay tribute to Atkinson during their second-tier English Championship match at home to Huddersfield on Tuesday.
The club will hold a minute’s applause in the 10th minute, with Atkinson having worn the number 10 shirt for most of his Villa career.
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