LOS ANGELES, Calif.–A community tribute will be held in Leimert Park today to honor Rodney King, the motorist whose 1991 videotaped beating by Los Angeles police officers led to the city’s worst riots.
The 47-year-old King was pronounced dead early Sunday after being pulled from the bottom of the backyard swimming pool at his home in the 1000 block of East Jackson Street in Rialto in San Bernardino County.
Rialto police received a call at 5:25 a.m. from King’s iancee. He was pronounced dead at Arrowhead Regional Medical Center in Colton at 6:11 a.m.
Police said there were no signs of foul play. Whether there was alcohol or drugs in his system won’t be known until after toxicology tests are performed, which could take weeks.
A community tribute to King is planned at Leimert Park in South Los Angeles starting at 6 p.m. It is being hosted by Project Islamic Hope.
“Rodney King was the victim of one of the worst police brutality beatings in history,” said Project Islamic Hope Director Najee Ali. “His struggles along the way were well documented, but in the end we view him as a community hero who always fought back against his personal demons…”
King was thrust to worldwide fame in when an amateur video photographer named George Holliday heard police helicopters whirling over his apartment and picked up his new video camera to record the blurry images of four LAPD officers kicking and clubbing a motorist who had been pulled from his car.
When the four officers were acquitted in a trial in Simi Valley in 1992, South Los Angeles erupted in riots. Fifty-three people were killed in the unrest. King appeared on television on the third day of rioting, pleading “Can’t we all just get along?”
In an interview with National Public Radio last April, King said his flight from police back was caused by a desire to avoid a drunken driving arrest on a night before he had to go to work.
“My family, everything that I had been working hard for since I’d been out of jail, my whole life was like flashed in front of me,” King told NPR.
“I made a bad mistake by running from them.”
King also said he had spent nearly all of the $3.8 million in civil judgments he had won against the LAPD–on lawyers, relatives and himself.
King appeared at this spring’s Los Angeles Times Festival of Books to promote his book, “The Riot Within: My Journey From Rebellion To Redemption.”
Attendees said he was hopeful and happy but confessed to being a recovering addict who suffers nightmares and flashbacks from the beating.
King said he forgave the officers who pummeled him.
After being acquitted in the state trial in Simi Valley, the four officers–Stacey Koon, Theodore Briseno, Timothy Wind and Laurence Powell–were indicted in the summer of 1992 on federal civil rights charges. Koon and Powell were convicted and sentenced to two years in prison.