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Rodney King

Beating Victim

Born: 2 April 1965
Died: 17 June 2012 (drowning)
Birthplace: Sacramento, California
Best known as:

The motorist whose 1991 beating set off the 1992 L.A. riots

Rodney Glen King was the black motorist whose beating by white police officers ultimately sparked widespread rioting in Los Angeles in 1992. In the early hours of 3 March 1991, Rodney King was pulled over by the cops for driving recklessly. A witness, George Holliday, videotaped the end of King's encounter with police from his apartment balcony. The video shows the officers severely beating Rodney King in the presence of other L.A. cops -- all told, nearly 20 seconds of whacking and kicking as King tries to rise from the ground. Aired repeatedly all over the country and then around the world, the footage shocked viewers and charges were brought against four cops: Laurence Powell, Theodore Briseno, Timothy Wind and Stacey Koon. On 29 April 1992, a jury acquitted three of the officers and deadlocked on the charges against Powell. Predominantly African American areas of Los Angeles erupted in violence, and six days of riots led to 50 deaths, thousands of arrests and an estimated one billion dollars in property damage. At one point Rodney King appeared before cameras to make a public plea that included the simple words, "Can we all get along here? Can we all get along?" King was awarded $3.8 million after a civil suit against the city (and others). King struggled with alcohol and drugs for much of his life, and in 2011 he made an appearance on the VH1 "reality" show Celebrity Rehab. In 2012 he published a memoir titled The Riot Within: My Journey from Rebellion to Redemption. Later that year he was found dead at the bottom of a backyard swimming pool at his home.

Extra credit:

Laurence Powell and Stacey Koon were convicted in federal court of violating Rodney King's civil rights and were sentenced to 30 months in prison.

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