UK police on trial accused of soccer player's murder

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FILE - This July 1, 1991 file photo shows Dalian Atkinson of Aston Villa. British prosecutors accused police officer Benjamin Monk on Tuesday May 4, 2021,of using unnecessary force against Dalian Atkinson, 48, a former Premier League soccer player, who died after being kicked in the head and shot with a stun gun. Police Constable Mary Ellen Bettley-Smith, 31, is also facing trial charged with assault. (PA via AP, File)

LONDON – British prosecutors accused a police officer of murder Tuesday for allegedly 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 during an altercation 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.

Prosecutor Alexandra Healy told the court that officers were called to a disturbance at Atkinson's father's home in Telford after midnight on Aug. 15, 2016, after neighbors reported hearing the soccer player shouting in the street.

She said Atkinson, who had serious health problems including end-stage renal failure, moved towards the officers and Monk used his stun gun twice ineffectively. The third deployment of the stun gun incapacitated Atkinson and caused him to fall forward onto the road, she said.