The death of former Aston Villa star Dalian Atkinson has been referred to the Crown Prosecution Service to consider potential criminal charges against two police officers.
The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) said three West Mercia Police officers were interviewed twice under criminal caution and served with gross misconduct notices following Mr Atkinson’s death in August 2016.
The retired 48-year-old, who also played for Ipswich and Sheffield Wednesday, died after police used a Taser during an incident in the Trench area of Telford.
At the request of the CPS, an expert report from a further pathologist is being awaited to assist prosecutors with their consideration, an IOPC spokesman said.
The West Mercia force have also been sent the IOPC investigation report to determine whether or not disciplinary proceedings should follow.
The watchdog’s regional director, Derrick Campbell, said: “On the basis of the evidence gathered I have decided to refer the matter to the Crown Prosecution Service to consider any potential criminal charges over the interaction two police officers had with Dalian Atkinson.
“This has been a lengthy and complex investigation and I am grateful for the patience shown by all concerned.
“We have kept West Mercia Police, Dalian’s family, and HM Coroner informed during the course of the investigation.”
An IOPC spokesman said the actions of the third officer have not been referred.
Relatives said Mr Atkinson was suffering a number of health issues and had a weak heart when a Taser was deployed at about 1.30am.
He went into cardiac arrest in an ambulance on his way to hospital and medics were unable to save him.
At the time, West Mercia Police said officers were called amid concerns “for the safety of an individual”.
In its statement issued on Thursday, the IOPC said its investigation gathered evidence which indicates that police contact with Mr Atkinson involved the use of a Taser, followed by a period of restraint and other uses of force.
In a statement issued by Mr Atkinson’s siblings after his death, they said: “Dalian grew to be a kind, caring and protective brother, with a lively personality: he was funny and cheeky. He always brought life and energy to family gatherings – when Dalian turned up, we knew there would be laughter and banter.”
Assistant Chief Constable Martin Evans of West Mercia Police said: “West Mercia Police fully co-operated with the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) throughout their independent investigation into the death of Dalian Atkinson and continues to do so.
“Mr Atkinson tragically died in the early hours of Monday 15 August 2016 in Telford after a Taser was deployed whilst police responded to an incident in Meadow Road, Trench. The incident was referred to the IOPC, as is mandatory with any death following police contact.
“West Mercia Police is aware of the IOPC decision to refer two officers to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) for potential criminal offences following its investigation into circumstances surrounding the death of Mr Atkinson.”
Mr Evans added: “Our thoughts remain with Mr Atkinson’s family and friends, and all those affected. We understand the need for answers by those directly affected by this tragedy and also by the wider community that West Mercia Police serves. It would be inappropriate for us to comment further at this time.”
In a statement issued after the report on Thursday, Dalian Atkinson’s family said: “It’s been a long, frustrating and difficult process over the last two years, watching the investigation take its course and awaiting answers as to how our brother died.
“We still don’t know all the details even now, and look forward to the time when everything is in the public domain.”