Former Aston Villa #9 Dalian Atkinson was killed last night following a brief interaction with police in Telford, Shropshire. He was 48 years old.
Police were called to Atkinson’s father’s house in Telford late last night after neighbors complained about shouting. One neighbor told reporters that they saw Atkinson “stumble” toward the police, at which point officers drew their Tasers and fired on him.
Immediately after he was shot it became apparent that he was having a serious medical issue and paramedics were summoned. According to his nephew Fabian, Atkinson was receiving dialysis treatment for kidney problems, and “obviously that’s inevitably why his heart was weaker.” Atkinson went into cardiac arrest en route to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 3am local time.
The incident was immediately referred to the Independent Police Complaints Commission, the country’s independent oversight body for law enforcement in England and Wales. The IPCC promised “a full and thorough investigation.” John Campion, a high-ranking official with West Mercia police, sought to reassure the community that the police would be held to strict standards of transparency and accountability.
“It is an important part of my role to hold the police to account. I want to be absolutely clear and reassure our communities that I will be doing that fairly and proportionately with regard to this incident once the full facts are available.”
Atkinson was best known for his time at Aston Villa in the early 1990s, as well as prior stints at Ipswich Town and Sheffield Wednesday. His greatest moment likely came during the inaugural 1992-93 Premier League season, when his brilliant solo effort in a 3-2 away win against Wimbledon won Match Of The Day’s Goal Of The Season award. (Skip to 0:19.)
Atkinson also spent a season at Real Sociedad, and while his time there was forgettable, he does hold the distinction of being the club’s first black player. After he left Villa he had a middling spell at Fenerbahçe before drifting into the football hinterlands in Saudi Arabia and South Korea. He finally retired in 2001.
The football world expressed heartbreak today after learning what happened.
His former manager at Villa Ron Atkinson (no relation) called his death an “out-and-out tragedy” and praised his contributions to the club. “He was popular in the dressing room, had terrific ability and did it in the big games.”
Neighborhood residents in Telford, meanwhile, remember a well-liked extended member of the community. Tina Bothwell expressed shock at the incident and deep concern for the Atkinson family.
”Every time he would come he would have crowds around him. It’s a close-knit community. I just can’t bear to think what his family are going through.”