Rodney King, the man who became the catalyst for the 1992 Los Angeles riots, was found dead Sunday (June 17) in his California home at the age of 47.
King was brutally beaten during a 1991 traffic stop in Los Angeles, during which he was struck more than 50 times by four white officers, who were later accused of using racial slurs during the attack. Footage of the incident eventually made its way to TV, sparking public outcry. The controversial outcome of the trial (all four were acquitted) led to a series of deadly riots and looting in the city that claimed 50 lives and cost approximately $1 billion in damages.
According to CNN, King was found on Sunday morning, after his fiancée Cynthia Kelly placed a 911 call to the Rialto, California, police at approximately 5:25 a.m. When officers arrived at the scene, King’s body was at the bottom of a pool; he was confirmed dead at a nearby hospital.
Captain Randy DeAnda told reporters that police would investigate the crime as a drowning, and added that there were no obvious signs of foul play at the scene or suspicious injuries to the victim’s body. “His fiancée heard him in the rear yard,” DeAnda said describing the events before Kelly placed the 911 call. (Kelly met King while serving as a juror in his 1994 lawsuit against the city of Los Angeles.)
Even after the L.A. riots had ended, King’s beating continued to send shockwaves across the nation, thanks to the clear picture of the racially motivated police brutality that was captured in the taped footage. In 1993, the accused officers stood trial, this time in federal court, and two were sentenced to 30 months in prison, while two others were acquitted. King, who brought his own lawsuit against the city, received $3.8 million in damages.
Strangely enough, in 2011 was King was ticketed for a minor traffic violation on the 20th anniversary of the beating. Besides that, the Californian also attempted to pursue a career in music, using some of his settlement money to launch it. Four years ago, King appeared on VH1’s “Celebrity Rehab,” where he was open about his battle with alcohol.
The impact of King’s beating on the state of race in America can be heard across classic hip-hop albums like Ice Cube’s The Predator and Dr. Dre’s The Chronic, which captured the racial tension in Los Angeles at the time. On his single, “Who Got the Camera?” Cube made direct reference to the beating, by telling a realistic story of being assaulted by the police after being pulled over.
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