Los Angeles News

Rodney King, key figure in LA riots, dead at 47

Sunday, June 17, 2012
On the 20th anniversary of the L.A. riots, Rodney King, seen here in this photo from April 2012, looks back on the beating and verdict that set off the civil unrest. Since the L.A. riots, Rodney King had been in and out of the spotlight, recently appearing to be turning his life around.

Rodney King, the victim in the infamous Los Angeles Police Department brutally case in 1991, has died. He was 47.

Police do not suspect any kind of foul play in his death. King's fiancée told police that she was inside the home, and King had been talking to her from the back patio. When she went outside at around 5:25 a.m. she saw him at the bottom of the pool under about 6 feet of water.

"She did try to save him. However, she is not a good swimmer and chose to dial 911 and call the police department," said Capt. Randy De Anda with the Rialto Police Department.

When officers arrived, they removed King from the pool and said he was unresponsive. Officers and paramedics performed CPR before King was transported to Arrowhead Regional Medical Center in Colton, where he was pronounced dead at 6:11 a.m.

His fiancée told officers that King was a very good swimmer. He frequently swam at night. Authorities say they are conducting a drowning investigation, but the San Bernardino County Coroner's Office will perform an autopsy to determine the exact cause of death. The coroner will also conduct toxicology tests to see if King had anything in his system that may have contributed to his death. The results may not be known for several weeks.

King was known for being beaten by LAPD officers during a 1991 DUI traffic stop that eventually led to the 1992 Los Angeles riots.

A bystander videotaped much of the incident from a distance. The footage showed four LAPD officers severely beating King, striking him 56 times with their night sticks. A jury with no black members acquitted three of the officers on state charges in the beating; a mistrial was declared for a forth.

On the 20th anniversary of the L.A. riots this past March, King looked back on the beating and verdict that set off the civil unrest. When the verdict was announced, King said he was beyond devastated.

"It felt like Armageddon. It felt like the end of the world," he told Eyewitness News anchor Marc Brown. "I was hurt. I was past upset."

The L.A. riots, which started April 29, 1992, was the worst riot in U.S history. Fifty-three people died and more than 2,000 were injured. Arsonists set some 7,000 fires and caused $1 billion in damage. At the height of the violence, King pleaded on television: "Can we all get along?"

In the years since the beating and the following riots, King has struggled to live a stable life. He was arrested or detained by police at least a dozen times on charges ranging from DUI to domestic violence.

King's neighbors said he mostly kept to himself, but when they did see him, he was friendly.

"First thing this morning I got word from my kids, you know, 'Happy Father's Day.' And to wake up and then to know that Mr. King had passed and found out that he had kids, it's really saddening to hear that," said neighbor Readus Carter. Neighbors say King had a daughter, and that his fiancée was one of the jurors on his civil trial.

King made numerous attempts at rehab, even going on two different reality shows. He appeared on the second season of "Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew" in 2008 and also appeared on the show's spin-off "Sober House," which chronicled his attempt to lead a sober life, in 2009.

Just months ago, King released a book he co-wrote with author Lawrence Spagnola entitled, "The Riot Within: My Journey from Rebellion to Redemption." It chronicles his life before, during and since the now-notorious videotaped beating in 1991 that cemented his place in history.

View photos of Rodney King through the years.

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