Dalian Atkinson, a former striker for Spanish soccer side Real Sociedad, died in the early hours of Monday morning near his home in Telford, in the English Midlands, after being Tasered by police.
Local people said that Atkinson, 48, seemed drunk but not violent. An investigation into the incident has been launched by the Independent Police Complaints Commission.
Atkinson played for Spain’s Real Sociedad in the early 1990s and was the first black player for the side, scoring 12 goals in La Liga
Details are hazy, but the retired player, whom local people described as a “gentle giant” and “in no way violent,” had been visiting his father on Sunday evening. He was seen to be having difficulty walking in the street afterwards, and a neighbor called the police. Police arrived and an officer subsequently fired a Taser at Atkinson “at least four or five times” according to a witness. Some 90 minutes later, while being taken by ambulance to hospital he was declared dead from cardiac arrest.
Human rights groups in the United Kingdom have repeatedly complained about the uncontrolled use of Tasers by police officers. But the majority of police officers defend their use “for their own protection and that of the public,” pointing out that the majority of police officers are not armed.
Tasers send a powerful electric shock lasting around five seconds via darts connected by wire to the weapon. The victim suffers a spasm and collapses. The pain is supposed to pass within seconds, but Tasers can be lethal for people with heart conditions.
The police’s action against an unarmed black man has been widely reported in the United Kingdom, particularly in the case of a well-known figure like Atkinson, whose 16-year career began in 1985 with Ipswich Town and then played for Sheffield Wednesday and the Spanish side Real Sociedad in the early 1990s, before moving to Aston Villa. He was the first black player for Sociedad, scoring 12 goals in La Liga.
Critics of the UK police force’s use of Tasers, which can send a 50,000-volt shock, say the weapon can be deadly. It has been the cause of at least a dozen deaths over the last decade in England and Wales.
English version by Nick Lyne.