Rodney King, the man who quickly rose to infamy after an assault by Los Angeles police officers was captured on tape, was found dead in his swimming pool over the weekend. He was 47. As questions surrounding his death begin to surface, law enforcement officials have stated they intend to open an investigation into the alleged drowning.
In 1991, King was pulled over by the Los Angeles police following a high-speed pursuit. According to testimony, the arresting officers claim that King was acting in a peculiar fashion, which they believed to be related to his consumption of PCP. When the suspect refused to cooperate, the police proceeded to violently beat King, going as far as to use tasers despite the fact that King was already on the ground. Much to their dismay, the entire exchange was caught on amateur video, which soon caught the attention of the entire nation.
So extensive were King’s injuries that it took three surgeons nearly five hours to repair the damage done.
Four LAPD officers were charged with excessive use of force by a police officer and assault with a deadly weapon. The ensuing trial, which was devoid of any black jurors, did not settle well with the African-American community. Following the acquittal of three officers and a deadlocked decision on the fourth, the city suddenly erupted in misguided violence, giving birth to what many call the L.A. Riots.
Over the span of several days, rioters took to the streets, looting business, torching buildings, and attacking anyone who was unfortunate enough to stumble in their path. At the end of the day, the riots resulted in the death of 50 people and over $1 billion in property damage.
King’s life had been forever changed. Although some viewed him as a cult hero, King was embarrassed and ashamed of the incident, which ultimately had several negative repercussions. In addition to having a few run-ins with the law, King continuously struggled with sobriety. In 2008, he appeared on the VH1 show “Celebrity Rehab” in an attempt to address his addictions.
His death, it would seem, is a sad finale to a troubled life.
“Rodney King was a symbol of civil rights and he represented the anti-police brutality and anti-racial profiling movement of our time,” Reverend Al Sharpton said in a statement. “It was his beating that made America focus on the presence of profiling and police misconduct.”