Tuesday 16 January 2018

LA riots assault victim King found dead at bottom of swimming pool

Rodney King speaks during a signing of his book 'The Riot Within: My Journey from Rebellion to Redemption' in New York in April this year. Photo: Reuters
Rodney King speaks during a signing of his book 'The Riot Within: My Journey from Rebellion to Redemption' in New York in April this year. Photo: Reuters

Nick Allen in Los Angeles

RODNEY King, the black motorist whose beating at the hands of police was the touchpaper for the 1992 Los Angeles riots, has died aged 47.

Mr King was found dead by his fiancee Cynthia Kelley at the bottom of a swimming pool at his home in the Los Angeles suburb of Rialto.

Paramedics attempted to revive him but he was pronounced dead at the scene. Police said he appeared to have drowned and that there were no signs of foul play.

Mr King, who had a history of alcohol and drug abuse, had reportedly been drinking all day on Saturday and smoking cannabis. According to Ms Kelley, he was screaming in the back garden before she heard a splash and found him naked in the pool.

Mr King became world famous following a high-speed car chase on March 3, 1991. He was beaten savagely by a group of white police officers, who hit him more than 50 times with their batons, kicked him, and shot him with stun guns.

A bystander recorded nine minutes of video footage which was broadcast on television repeatedly, inflaming racial tensions across the United States.

A year later, four police officers went on trial. On April 29, 1992, a jury acquitted three of them and a mistrial was declared for the fourth. As a result, several days of rioting broke out and the National Guard was called in.

A total of 55 people died, more than 2,000 were injured, and damage estimated at $1bn (€790m) was caused to property. Shop owners armed themselves and fought gun battles with looters. At the time, Mr King himself appealed for calm, saying: "Can we all get along?"

In the two decades since the Los Angeles riots, Mr King worked as a record company executive and appeared on reality TV shows. He was due to take part in a celebrity boxing match against a former baseball player in the coming months.

Mr King admitted having problems with alcohol and drugs, including PCP, and described suffering flashbacks and nightmares. In 2003, he crashed his car and was sent to jail and rehab. Two years later he was arrested for making threats to kill his daughter and her mother after an argument.

He received a $3.8m (€2.9m) settlement after suing the city of Los Angeles over the beating, but said the money ran out. His fiancee Ms Kelley was a juror in the civil case.

Mr King had used some of the money from the settlement for a down payment on his house in Rialto. He was a former construction worker and set the stone for the swimming pool himself, inscribing two dates in the tiles -- the date of the beating and the date the riots began.

Around the 20th anniversary of the riots in April of this year, he gave a series of interviews, saying he had forgiven the officers who beat him, but that racism still needed to be challenged.

"I have forgiven them because America has forgiven me for so many things, and given me so many chances," he said.

"There's always going to be some type of racism. But it's up to us as individuals in this country to look back and see all the accomplishments that we have gotten to this far."

Mr King said what he had been through on the night of the beating had ultimately "made the world a better place". (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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