Acquittal of officers in his televised beating sparked L.A. riots
Rodney King, whose videotaped beating by four LAPD officers sparked the events that led to the 1992 Los Angeles riots, has died at 47, police said.
King, who recently appeared on VH1's "Celebrity Rehab" and "Sober House" as he battled a crippling addiction to alcohol, was found at the bottom of his pool by his fiancee at his home in Rialto, Calif.
She called police at about 5:25 a.m. Sunday. Officers attempted CPR at the home and King was transferred to Arrowhead Medical Center in Colton, where he was declared dead.
Rialto police told TheWrap they were investigating and that there were no signs of foul play.
Four officers beat King in 1991 after he led them on a drunken high-speed chase. It was captured on camera by George Holliday, in one of the first cases of a private citizen's camcorder capturing what became a major news event. The release of the video sparked widespread outrage over the brutality and led to charges against the four officers.
When three of the officers were acquitted the following April 29 — and jurors could not reach a decision on the fourth — the outrage was immediate. It led to days of rioting that claimed 53 lives.
In one of the most heartbreaking moments of the riots, an obviously unnerved King briefly spoke to reporters, making a shaky plea for peace.
"Can we all get along?" he asked. "Can we stop making it horrible for the older people and the kids?
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In 1993, King testified against the officers in a federal trial in which they were accused of violating his civil rights. Two of them were convicted and two were acquitted.
King also sued the city of Los Angeles and was awarded $3.8 million in damages.
By then, King was in the midst of an ugly battle with alcohol. He said he turned to drinking as he dealt with the trauma of the beating. He crashed his car repeatedly and was accused of hitting his wife with it.
He joined "Celebrity Rehab" in 2008. Footage from the series showed him trying to work, but passing out on the job. But he announced in February 2010 that he had been sober for 11 months.
King most recently returned to the public eye this year, when he issued a statement saying he was "grieving" for Trayvon Martin, the Florida teenager shot by neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman.
“The horrifying sound of a young black male screaming for his life on a 911 call reminded me of my horrifying scream on a videotape 20 years ago,” King said. "At that time, I thought I was going to die. Very, very gratefully, I survived. Unfortunately, Trayvon Martin did not."