The police officer accused of murdering ex-footballer Dalian Atkinson has told a jury the force he used to kick the former sportsman as he lay on the ground was “about a four” out of 10 on a sliding scale.
Prosecutors claim West Mercia Police Constable Benjamin Monk, who denies murder and manslaughter, used unlawful and unreasonable force during a final 33-second firing of the Taser, and by then kicking former Aston Villa star Atkinson in the head.
Monk, who described his kick as “instinctive”, told a jury he was “terrified” he and his colleague “were going to die” during the encounter.
The jury heard three Taser cartridges were deployed by Monk before Mr Atkinson, who later died in hospital, was handcuffed near his father’s home in Meadow Close, Telford, Shropshire, in the early hours of August 15 2016.
Giving evidence for the first time in his defence at Birmingham Crown Court on Wednesday, Monk said he felt “a big relief” when Mr Atkinson was floored after being tasered the third time.
Two previous Taser strikes had been ineffective, he told the jury, leaving him with his third, and final, cartridge.
Monk said Mr Atkinson allegedly told him, during the incident, that “you can put 100,000 volts through me, I’m the f****** messiah – your Taser won’t work and now I’m going to take you to the gates of hell”.
Asked how he felt after the second Taser strike failed, the officer of then 14 years’ service, said: “I remember just thinking, ‘we’re done for’.”
When Patrick Gibbs QC, Monk’s barrister, asked the officer what he did next, he replied: “Ran for my life – we ran away”, something he told jurors he had never done in his entire career.
The 43-year-old said: “He (Mr Atkinson) was very, very scary.
“And the device which I thought might work for me, hadn’t worked and I was terrified.”
Monk and a junior colleague, with whom he was in a relationship at the time, Pc Mary Ellen Bettley-Smith, backed away from Atkinson, in the residential close, while waiting for more officers to arrive.
By this time, Mr Atkinson had smashed the glass in the front door of the property belonging to his father.
Both officers had been sent to the address in Meadow Close, after members of the public called 999, soon after Mr Atkinson arrived, reporting a concern for the welfare of the elderly occupant.
During the course of the first two failed Taser strikes, Bettley-Smith called for back-up, activating her emergency button, calling all available units to the location.
Monk then described hearing one of the back-up units radioing to tell the pair they were still “six minutes” away.
He said: “That is a transmission I definitely remember, because it struck absolute fear in me to think the nearest crew was so far away.”
Monk said, having backed away into the street, he tasered Mr Atkinson a third time, and this time the ex-football star “stopped moving towards me and seemed to stop where he was”.
He added: “He fell to the floor.
“I know he timbered, but I can’t say if it was from standing.”
Asked how he felt in that moment, Monk replied: “The fear I had when he was coming towards me knowing I was on the last (Taser) cartridge, and everything else had failed.
“In concert with that, if this cartridge didn’t work, Ellie (Bettley-Smith), me, the gentleman inside the house, were potentially done for – so the fact it worked it was a big relief.”
Monk said he had “very much so” considered running from Mr Atkinson, leading him away from the close, but said: “We had to protect the man inside the house.”
With Mr Atkinson now on the ground, Monk said the former Villa striker started “plucking” at his clothing, which the constable felt was an attempt to free the Taser’s electricity barbs, in order to get back up.
At that point, he recalled Bettley-Smith coming across and “she delivered some baton strikes to the lower area of Mr Atkinson’s legs”.
Monk said Mr Atkinson was then, he felt, “trying to get up”.
Asked what he did, Monk told the court: “I kicked him.”
The court has already heard evidence that imprints from Monk’s bootlaces showed he had connected with Mr Atkinson’s head at least twice, but the officer said in an interview at the time he believed he had kicked the 48-year-old “in the shoulder”.
However, he had told colleagues at the scene in the immediate aftermath, “I had to kick him in the head”.
Asked by Mr Gibbs why there was a difference in his account, Monk replied: “I think it was influenced by wishing things could have been different – wishful thinking.”
Describing the act, Monk said: “There wasn’t an intention to kick him anywhere, it was an instinctive act, a desperate, instinctive act because this was the last thing I had.
“I believe, in my interview, I said my intention was to kick him in the shoulder but it’s more realistic to say that it was instinctive.”
He added: “I wanted Mr Atkinson to stop getting up because I thought if he’s going to get up, we were going to die.”
Asked how hard he kicked Mr Atkinson, he said: “It would have been easier to explain in interview, on a sliding scale of one to 10.
“But I do believe that the force would have been about a four, but what I can be absolutely certain of is my intention – I didn’t want to hurt Mr Atkinson in any capacity.
“That’s why I am confident my intention was not to kick him hard.”
The court has previously heard that Taser-trained Monk had depressed the weapon’s trigger for 33 seconds, six times longer than the default setting, during the third strike.
When asked if he had been conscious of doing so in evidence, he replied: “Absolutely not. Absolutely not.”
Mr Atkinson died about 70 minutes after the incident, with Monk telling jurors that when he found out the news from an inspector back at the police station, it left him “devastated”.
The constable said: “I had no idea it was going to end the way it did, I never wanted it to end the way it did.
“It was horrible to hear.”
Asked if he felt his actions were reasonable that night, he said: “In all the circumstances, with everything I faced, I am confident my actions were reasonable, they were necessary and I just did the best I could.”
When asked if, knowing what he knew now, he would have done anything differently, Monk said: “If I had perhaps had an indication that some of my fellow officers were coming round the corner and I had that comfort blanket, I wouldn’t have kicked Mr Atkinson and I am confident I wouldn’t have used any force at all.”
The officer denied ever “stamping” on Mr Atkinson, while he was floored, as one witness previously described.
Monk also denied telling his colleague Bettley-Smith to, as another eyewitness claimed, “f****** hit him” in reference to Mr Atkinson, while the ex-sportsman was lying on the floor, having been tasered the third and final time.
He had previously only drawn his Taser five times prior to the fatal incident; once in 2010 and four occasions in 2016 – but had never fired the device on the previous four instances, jurors have heard.
Monk is alleged to have intended to cause really serious injury to Mr Atkinson, who also played for Sheffield Wednesday and Ipswich Town, after those two initial uses of the Taser proved ineffective.
Bettley-Smith, 31, is also on trial, and denies a charge of assault occasioning actual bodily harm, by using her force-issue extendable baton.
The trial continues.