Rodney King Dies at 47
Rodney King, the center of a vicious police beating in 1991, dies at the age of 47. The man who many called the catalyst for police reformation was found dead on Sunday by his fiancée.
King was found floating in a swimming pool at his Rialto, California home that he shared with his partner Cynthia Kelly. Paramedics arrived at his home at 5:30 am on Sunday, and he was pronounced dead at a nearby hospital at 6:11 am.
Many have argued over the hero status that was given to King after the brutal police beating he suffered in 1991. A resident videotaped the beating and it was repeatedly played by TV stations, leading to public outcry, and the trials of the four police officers who attacked King.
He famously said at a news conference following the beating: “Can we all get along?”
King has stated that he felt the civil rights hero status, which he acquired after the attack, wasn’t something he felt he deserved. “People look at me like I should have been like Malcolm X or Martin Luther King or Rosa Parks,” he told LA Times in April. “I should have seen life like that and stay out of trouble, and don’t do this and don’t do that. But it’s hard to live up to some people’s expectations.”
King has been arrested several times for DUIs and has spent time in and out of jail and rehab centers, where he struggled with drug and alcohol abuse.
At the time of the 1991 beating, the then 25-year-old Rodney King was out on parole on a 1989 robbery convinction when he was pulled over with two other passengers for speeding. King, afraid of violating his parole, ran from the officers. He was captured and was struck with batons, kicked, and hit with Tasers.
George Holliday, a resident near the incident, began recording the beating and sent the video to news outlets, resulting in its repeated broadcast that ignited the already present resentment against law enforcement abuse and aggression.
The officers–Stacey Koon, Theodore Briseno, Timothy Wind and Laurence Powell–were aquitted on April 29, 1992 by a jury that did not include any black jurors. The verdict sent South Los Angeles residents into a frenzy, resulting in a three-day riot that would see a $1 billion in damages, killing 55 people, and injuring over 2,000 people.
The riot sparked a new trial which resulted in the conviction of Koon and Powell, who were sentenced to two years in prison, and awarded King with $3.8 million in damages.
King describes his feelings about the ordeal in his autobiography: ”For many years I felt that I had been involuntarily burdened as the victim and resultant universal symbol of police brutality,” King wrote. “I wanted no part of it, just wanted to stay home, drink and watch TV… The fact that this footage was sent out to be viewed by the entire world certainly didn’t help my recovery.”
King added that he had to take life one day at a time. ”We may be scarred, and we may not be able to forget, but we can keep going, one step at a time, until we get to a better place.”
He is survived by his daughters, Lora and Candice King, and an unnamed third daughter. King was married twice, and had been sharing a home with his fiancée Cynthia Kelly.