LONDON (AP) — A British police chief has written to apologize to the family of former professional soccer player Dalian Atkinson, who died after a police officer used a stun gun on him and kicked him in the head.
In June, constable Benjamin Monk was convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to eight years in prison for the 2016 death of the 48-year-old Atkinson.
The former Aston Villa striker died at a hospital shortly after he was arrested in Telford, central England. Atkinson, who appeared to be suffering from a mental health crisis at the time, was subdued by police using a stun gun.
Prosecutors said Monk used the stun gun against Atkinson for 33 seconds, more than six times longer than was standard, and kicked him at least twice in the head.
In a letter, Pippa Mills, the new head of the West Mercia police force, said she was “deeply sorry” for Monk’s actions.
“A police uniform does not grant officers immunity to behave unlawfully or to abuse their powers,” she wrote.
The family’s lawyer, Kate Maynard, said in a statement the official apology is “welcomed and overdue.”
The charity Inquest, which supports the bereaved in cases of deaths involving the state, has said that Monk’s conviction is believed to be the first time a British police officer has been found guilty of the manslaughter of a Black man.
It is extremely rare for police in Britain to be convicted of manslaughter or murder over deaths in custody or during contact with the public. Maynard said Monk’s conviction was the first of a serving officer on a manslaughter charge in connection with their policing duties in over 30 years.