Shropshire

Aston Villa fans pay tribute to Dalian Atkinson after Taser death

Dalian Atkinson Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Dalian Atkinson played for Ipswich Town and Sheffield Wednesday as well as Aston Villa

Aston Villa fans have paid tribute to the club's former striker Dalian Atkinson, who died after being shot with a Taser by police.

Supporters held a minute's applause 10 minutes into the club's Championship game against Huddersfield Town.

Fans at Villa Park also raised umbrellas around the ground in a tribute inspired by a famous celebration when Atkinson netted a memorable goal against Wimbledon.

His death is being investigated.

The Taser was used on the 48-year-old at his father's house in Trench, Telford, in the early hours of Monday.

He went into cardiac arrest on his way to hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

Image copyright PA Wires
Image caption Supporters held a minute's applause 10 minutes into the game at Villa Park
Image copyright MOD
Image caption Tributes to former striker Dalian Atkinson were left at the ground before the club's match with Huddersfield Town

Home fans gathered before the match to honour their former forward, who famously scored the opener in the 1994 League Cup final win over Manchester United.

Supporters chanted his name in the early stages of the game, with the club also paying tribute by before the match.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Dalian Atkinson was shown on the big screen as fans paid tribute to their former striker

Villa fans had planned to bring their own umbrellas in reference to Atkinson's famous celebration, but the club said health and safety prevented them from allowing such a tribute.

Instead designated members of the club's fan squad raised umbrellas in the corner of the pitch.

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Image caption New Aston Villa owner Tony Xia watched the match, seated above a sign in memory of former striker Dalian Atkinson
Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Aston Villa fans had planned to use umbrellas to remember their former player Dalian Atkinson, harking back to a famous goal he scored against Wimbledon in 1992

Geoff Scott, chairman of Xpro, which helps ex-footballers and their families, said the charity had been contacted by Atkinson's family for help after he was taken to hospital earlier this year.

'On his day he was unplayable'

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Media captionDalian Atkinson's goal of the season

Many of Atkinson's former team-mates and clubs he played for have paid tribute to the ex-striker, described by former manager at Villa and Sheffield Wednesday Ron Atkinson as popular in the dressing room with "terrific ability".

His death has been referred to the police watchdog, the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC).

West Mercia Police said it responded to a report expressing concern for the safety of an individual at about 01:30 BST on Monday.

Neighbour Paula Quinn, who lives in a first-floor flat near Atkinson's father's house in Meadow Close said she saw officers shouting and kicking him before the Taser was deployed several times.

She told the Shropshire Star newspaper the former footballer had "seemed a bit, perhaps, inebriated".

He was declared dead at 03:00 at Princess Royal Hospital, in Telford.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Dalian Atkinson opened the scoring in Aston Villa's win against Manchester United in the 1994 League Cup final

Home Office statistics show there were 10,329 uses of Tasers by police in England and Wales in 2015, a 2% increase on the previous year.

Calum Macleod, vice-chairman of the Police Federation of England and Wales, said officers have a minimal amount of time in which to decide whether to deploy a Taser.

'Tool in a tool kit'

"If people had the time to sit there and research medical history and research potential implications, the worst-case scenario could be that someone could be dead," he said.

"Officers are called to deal with situations that arise in the blink of an eye and invariably have to be dealt with within that time-frame.

"We have to be able to run towards danger when it occurs. We have to be able to protect the public and protect ourselves. This is not the panacea to solve every problem but it is an option. It is a tool in a tool kit."

In a statement, the UK chapter of Black Lives Matter said black people were three times more likely to have Tasers used on them in the UK today, and those with mental health issues were potentially more at risk.

"The increased use of Tasers by police forces in England and Wales has been commonly presented as a non-lethal alternative to the use of firearms. However, as the tragic death of Dalian Atkinson and at least 10 other such cases in England and Wales over the last decade show, all too often Taser use is fatal."

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Image caption Police were called to Meadow Close in Telford in the early hours of Monday morning

Mr Atkinson's nephew, Fabian, said his uncle was having dialysis treatment for kidney problems which had weakened his heart.

He said it should be "mandatory" to deploy an ambulance when a Taser was going to be used.

West Mercia Police is not commenting further on the incident while the IPCC investigation under way but said no officers had been suspended following the death.

The watchdog said "the level and type of force used" was one of the elements of its investigation into police contact with Mr Atkinson before his death.

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Image caption Dalian Atkinson's nephew Fabian said an ambulance should be called when a Taser is going to be used

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