LONDON — A police officer has been charged with the murder of a former Premier League soccer player who died in 2016 after being shot by a Taser gun during a confrontation outside his father’s home in western England, prosecutors said on Thursday.
Officers from the West Mercia Police, the regional force, had tried to subdue the former player, Dalian Atkinson, 48, with the Taser, which delivers an electrical charge and is intended to be less harmful than ordinary firearms. Mr. Atkinson was pronounced dead after being taken to a hospital.
A spokesman for the Crown Prosecution Service said it was unusual for an officer to be charged with murder for an action taken while carrying out duties on the job. The case is even more unusual because of the involvement of the Taser, which is used precisely because it is less likely to cause loss of life.
Tasers are not listed by the British government as lethal weapons, and they are excluded from the annual figures documenting the use of firearms by the police.
A second police officer was charged with assault causing actual bodily harm. Neither of the officers was named, because their lawyers intend to apply for anonymity on their behalf, prosecutors said. The defendants were set to appear at a court in Birmingham, England, on Thursday.
On Aug. 15, 2016, officers were called to a property in Telford, England, at about 1:30 a.m. Mr. Atkinson had apparently gone to the area to visit his father, Ernest Atkinson.
After the two officers arrived, one of them discharged a Taser “whilst in contact with Mr. Atkinson outside the property,” according to a statement on the day of the episode, from the Independent Office for Police Conduct, which investigated the death.
More officers arrived, and an ambulance was called, the statement added. Mr. Atkinson was treated on the scene before being taken to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead, the statement said.
Just over two years later, the Independent Office for Police Conduct referred a file of evidence against two police officers to prosecutors.
The Crown Prosecution Service said on Thursday that the officer charged with murder had also been charged with an alternative, lesser offense — “unlawful act manslaughter” — that the jury can consider if it determines that there is insufficient evidence for the murder charge.
Inquest, a charity that provides expertise in state-related deaths, said in a statement on Thursday that “no police officer involved in a death in custody or following police contact has been found guilty of murder or manslaughter” since 1990.
Mr. Atkinson, a star of English soccer in the 1980s and 1990s, played for Ipswich Town, Sheffield Wednesday and, perhaps most notably, Aston Villa in the English Premier League. He spent four of the most productive years of his career at Aston Villa, earning a reputation as an inventive and intelligent forward.
He spent the later years of his career playing in Turkey, France and South Korea, before retiring from professional soccer in 2001 at the age of 33.
He struggled with health problems after his career finished, most notably a kidney complaint for which he was receiving treatment in the time leading up his death.
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