Rodney King posed for a portrait in Los Angeles on April 13, 2012.
Matt Sayles, Associated Press
L.A.'s Rodney King found dead in his pool
- Article by: KURT STREETER, KATE MATHER
- a nd SHELBY GRAD Los Angeles Times
- June 17, 2012 - 10:54 PM
LOS ANGELES - Rodney King, whose beating by Los Angeles police helped spark the 1992 riots in the city when some of the officers involved were acquitted on state charges, died Sunday at his home in Rialto, Calif., where he was found at the bottom of the swimming pool. He was 47.
King became a symbol for police brutality and was eventually awarded a $3.8 million settlement, but the money, much of which went to his lawyers, and the fame brought him little solace. He had repeated run-ins with the law and recently said he was broke.
"I sometimes feel like I'm caught in a vise. Some people feel like I'm some kind of hero," he said in an interview with the Los Angeles Times this year. "Others hate me. They say I deserved it [the beating]. "
King's fiancée, who was not identified, called 911 about 5:25 a.m. and said she had found King at the bottom of his pool, Sgt. Paul Stella said. Officers pulled him out and began CPR until paramedics arrived and took King to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
Preliminary information indicated that King drowned, and there were no signs of foul play, Stella said. An autopsy will be conducted.
King, who published a memoir this year, had long struggled with drugs and alcohol. He called himself a recovering addict but had not stopped drinking, and he possessed a doctor's clearance for medical marijuana. King last year appeared on VH1's "Celebrity Rehab," trying to tackle his alcoholism.
King was drunk and unarmed on March 3, 1991, when he was pulled over for speeding by Los Angeles Police Department officers. After he attempted to flee, he was caught by several officers who beat him.
"It felt like I was an inch from death," King said, describing what it was like to be struck by batons and stung by Tasers.
The incident was captured on video by a civilian bystander, and the recording became an international sensation. Four of the officers were tried for excessive force. Three were acquitted on April 29, 1992, by a jury with no black members in the suburb of Simi Valley, and a mistrial was declared for the fourth, touching off one of the worst urban riots in U.S. history. There were 54 riot-related deaths and nearly $1 billion in property damage.
King said he was shocked by the destruction. "I couldn't believe what I was seeing," he said. "Mayhem, people everywhere ... looting, burning. Gunshots. I turned back and went home. I looked at all of that and I thought to the way I was raised, with good morals from my mother, even though I didn't always follow them.
"I said to myself, 'That is not who I am, all this hate. I am not that guy. This does not represent me or my family, killing people over this. No, sir, that is not the way I was raised by my mother.' I began to realize that I had to say something to the people, had to try to get them to stop."
So, on the third day of the rioting, he pleaded on television: "People, I just want to say, you know, can we all get along? Can we get along?"
King this year said he was at peace with what happened to him.
"I would change a few things, but not that much," he said. "Yes, I would go through that night, yes I would. I said once that I wouldn't, but that's not true. It changed things. It made the world a better place."
During the first 10 years after the riots, King started an unsuccessful hip-hop recording company.
Over the last 20 years, he had repeated contact with law enforcement. He long ago stopped keeping track of his arrests for crimes such as driving under the influence and domestic assault. "Eleven times?" he said this year. "Twelve?"
"For a long time, sure, I was letting the pressure of being Rodney King get to me. ... Even now, I walk into a place wondering what people are thinking. Do they know who I am? What do they think about what happened? Do they blame me for all those people who died?"
The New York Times contributed to this report.
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