Rodney King, the man whose brutal beating by L.A. police officers–and their subsequent acquittal–started a massive riot in the streets of Los Angeles which killed 55 people, was high on a mixture of drugs and alcohol when he either jumped or fell into a swimming pool and drowned in June. His death has officially been ruled an accidental drowning.
King reportedly had a blood-alcohol level of .06, and toxicology reports showed traces of marijuana and cocaine in his system. A neighbor, Sandra Gardea, said she’d heard disconcerting sounds coming from his apartment earlier, like that of someone sobbing. He awakened another neighbor, Cynthia Kelley, by making odd grunting sounds outside her patio door. When he began stumbling around and fell over a planter, she called the police. But they didn’t arrive in time to keep King from falling into the water.
“Mr. King was in a state of drug- and alcohol-induced delirium at the time of the terminal event and either fell or jumped into the swimming pool,” Rialto Police Captain Randy DeAnda said. “Obviously, the effects of the drugs and alcohol combined precipitated some kind of cardiac arrhythmia, thus incapacitated Mr. King, and he was unable to save himself.”
King, who earned quite a bit of fame after an onlooker with a video camera taped his beating, received a multi-million dollar settlement check from the incident, but a string of arrests and a battle with drug use ate up the money. He’d recently published a book about his life, however, and was looking forward to what came next.
“America’s been good to me after I paid the price and stayed alive through it all,” he said. “This part of my life is the easy part now.”