Rodney King, the man who became synonymous with the 1991 Los Angeles race riots has died at the age of 47. Following the videotaping of his relentless beating at the hands of Los Angeles police officers, the incident was considered one of the primary catalysts behind some of the most serious, destructive and deadly rioting in the history of the US.
Local authorities were called just before 5:30am by King’s fiancé, who told emergency services that she found him dead in their Rialto home’s swimming pool. Officers quickly arrived on the scene and dragged an unresponsive King from the water, stating there were no immediate signs of suspicious circumstances.
He was rushed to Arrowhead Regional Hospital where his death was confirmed at 6:11am.
An autopsy is to be carried out in the next 48 hours.
The 1992 Los Angeles race riots were considered by most to be primarily ignited by the acquittal of several LAPD officers involved in the beating of an unarmed Rodney King. The resulting riots went on for over 72 hours and resulted in 55 deaths, over 2,000 injuries and huge areas of Los Angeles reduced to burning ash.
During the peak of the troubles, Rodney King made an emotional appearance on nation TV to urge “can we all get along?”
The infamous incident began when King was pulled over by police officers on March 3rd 1991, after noting his vehicle speeding on a dark street. As King appeared to be uncooperative with the officers’ demands he laid still, the four present set upon him with batons, hitting him over 50 times along with kicking him and using stun-guns.
A bystander who came out of his home to see what was happening videotaped most of the incident and subsequently handed the copy over to the local media. Over the course of the following year, the tape was played thousands of times across the US and the rest of the world, intensifying racial tensions and provoking violence and anti-authority movements on a dangerous level.
At the time, the video was considered to be the concrete evidence that would seal the fate of the officers in question and lead to all three facing lengthy prison sentences for their apparent racially-motivated actions. However, on April 29th 1992, an all-white jury found three of the police offers no guilty of any crimes, while the fourth case was thrown out at a mistrial.
Violence exploded on the streets of Los Angeles immediately following the verdict, beginning in the South Central area.
Having vastly underestimated the severity of the riots, LAPD officers were significantly outnumbered and forced to retreat. As the rioting masses grew and spread across the city, shop and business owners along with terrified citizens took up arms and began defending themselves in fierce battles.
During an interview with the media earlier this year, Rodney King told the Associated Press that he was a happy and contented man.
“America’s been good to me after I paid the price and stayed alive through it all,” he told reporters. “This part of my life is the easy part now.”