UK police on trial for soccer player Atkinson’s murder

British prosecutors accused a police officer Tuesday of using unnecessary force against a Black former Premier League soccer player, who died after being kicked in the head and shot with a stun gun

LONDON — British prosecutors accused a police officer Tuesday of using unnecessary force against a Black former Premier League soccer player, who died after being kicked in the head and shot with a stun gun.

Dalian Atkinson, 48, a former Aston Villa star, went into cardiac arrest on the way to a hospital and died around 90 minutes after officers used a Taser on him to subdue him in 2016. Prosecutors allege that West Mercia Police Constable Benjamin Monk, 42, used a stun gun for 33 seconds against Atkinson — more than six times longer than was standard.

Authorities charged Monk with murder and manslaughter after a three-year inquiry.

Monk’s colleague, Police Constable Mary Ellen Bettley-Smith, 31, is also facing trial charged with assault. The two appeared at Birmingham Crown Court Tuesday for the start of their trial. Both officers deny wrongdoing.

The case has touched off a debate about the use of stun guns in a country where police rarely carry firearms.

Black people were three times more likely to be involved in stun gun incidents than white people from 2011 to 2015, according to Home Office statistics obtained by the BBC in a Freedom of Information request showed at the time.

Prosecutor Alexandra Healy told the court that Atkinson, who had serious health problems including end stage renal failure, moved towards the officers after they were called to a disturbance in Meadow Close, Telford, after midnight on Aug. 15, 2016.

“The standard default setting of a Taser is a five-second phase, but it is possible to override that by continuing to depress the trigger,” the prosecutor told the jury. “And PC Monk continued to depress the trigger for over six times the length of a standard five-second phase.”

Prosecutors also allege that Monk kicked Atkinson in the head hard enough to leave the imprints of the pattern of his laces on his forehead.

Healy said Monk wasn’t acting in self defense when he kicked Atkinson twice in the head.

“He was no doubt angry that he had been put in fear by this man. He chose to take that anger out on Dalian Atkinson by kicking him in the head,” she said.