Rodney King, whose beating sparked L.A. riots, dies
Rodney King poses for a portrait in Los Angeles on April 13, 2012. (AP Photo/Matt Sayles)
Published Sunday, June 17, 2012 7:42PM EDT
Last Updated Sunday, June 17, 2012 9:19PM EDT
Rodney King, whose videotaped beating at the hands of police officers triggered the infamous 1992 Los Angeles race riots, has died at age 47.
Police said King's fiancée called 911 at about 5:25 a.m. Sunday after discovering him at the bottom of a swimming pool at their home in Rialto, about a one hour drive east of Los Angeles.
Attending officers pulled King from the pool and attempted to revive him.
He was later pronounced dead at a local hospital.
According to Rialto police Capt. Randy DeAnda there were no preliminary signs of foul play and police are conducting a drowning investigation.
DeAnda said an autopsy will determine if drugs or alcohol were involved in the death, but he noted that police found no alcoholic beverages or drugs near the pool.
King became a household name when a bystander recorded him being beaten by white Los Angeles police officers after he was stopped for speeding in 1991.
The footage, which shows him being hit multiple times and shot with stun guns, made him a central figure in discussions about race relations and police brutality in America.
Four officers accused in the beating were acquitted of most criminal charges a year later, sparking riots across Los Angeles and neighbouring cities. The racially charged violence left 55 people dead injured more than 2,000 others.
At the height of the chaos, King famously declared on television, "Can't we all just get along?" The expression became an oft-repeated phrase in pop culture and history books.
King's beating and the ensuing riots have had profound effects on the city of Los Angeles, as well as the entire country.
Civil rights activist Al Sharpton said in a statement that King was a symbol of the anti-police-brutality movement.
"Through all that he had gone through with his beating and his personal demons he was never one to not call for reconciliation and for people to overcome and forgive," Sharpton said.
"History will record that it was Rodney King's beating and his actions that made America deal with the excessive misconduct of law enforcement."
In an interview with The Associated Press earlier this year, King said he was a happy man.
“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."
CTV's Los Angeles Bureau Chief Tom Walters commented on the legacy of the King beating on CTV News Channel on Sunday.
Calling the video that captured the beating a "watershed," Walters said it was akin to "capturing the Loch Ness Monster on video."
"It was the first moment when citizen scrutiny of police conduct could shine such a powerful spotlight on the way police behaved in such an incident," said Walters.
That video caused profound changes in the attitudes of the community, the police and especially the prevailing police culture, said Walters.
"Prior to the Rodney King beating this was a kind of, ‘Knock him in the head,' tough guy, old-style policing. It really was not as effective as the kind of policing the community has seen since," he said.
Walters said since the beating, the Los Angeles police adopted more of a community-minded policing style. They also diversified their force.
As a result, the city now has lower crime rates, said Walters.
With files from The Associated Press