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Rodney King

This Day in History: Police Caught on Camera Beating Rodney King

Gettyimages | ROBERT SULLIVAN
By Sharon Oliver

Before social media, there was the era of the camcorder and videotaping craze. And on March 3, 1991, a Los Angeles citizen named George Holliday, captured an incident so horrendous it would be forever embedded in the annals of history. From his nearby balcony, Holliday shot footage of police officers severely beating a man who we would come to know as Rodney King.

Holliday sent the footage to local news station KTLA and not long afterward, the beating was shown around the world.

Rodney King Beating

Giphy | FirstAndMonday

Rodney King, a construction worker on parole for robbery, was stopped and beaten by LA police following a car chase. King and his two passengers were ordered to exit the vehicle and lie face down on the ground. Although ranking officer Stacey Koon ordered all officers to holster their weapons, what ensued next was a violent beating.

King was treated at Pacifica Hospital for multiple bruises and lacerations, a broken ankle and a fractured facial bone. Blood and urine tests would later reveal that the motorist had traces of marijuana in his system and would have been deemed intoxicated under California law.

Trial and Riots

LA Riots
Gettyimages | Lindsay Brice

Four LAPD officers were charged in the violent beating of Rodney King. However, their acquittal of the assault by a majority white jury in April 1992 sparked outrage riots across the nation and deadly riots in Los Angeles. For three days, Los Angeles was marred by looting, arson and violence. King himself held a press conference, pleading with the public, “Can we all just get along.”

In the end, two officers were subsequently convicted of violating King’s civil rights, but 2,000 people had been injured and 55 had lost their lives.

Settlement

Rodney King
Gettyimages | Kevork Djansezian

King was eventually awarded slightly over $3.8 million in compensation for violation against his civil rights. The $3,816,535.45 was three times the $1.25 million the city offered to pay King and far less than the $9.5 million King wanted.

At the time, City attorney James K. Hahn said, "We think that this is a satisfactory result," indicating that the city is unlikely to appeal the outcome. It had conceded liability in the beating as a means to resolve the case and avoid a review of police procedures.

Troubles followed King

Rodney King
Gettyimages | Kevork Djansezian

Years later, Rodney King was arrested following another traffic stop near a Pomona Park. Allegedly, he was under the influence of PCP. A couple of years later, he was spotted speeding and weaving through traffic in his 2003 Ford Expedition, resulting in slamming into a utility pole, a chain-link fence and then into a home. Fortunately, no one in the house was injured.

In 2012, Rodney King was found dead in his swimming pool. While the coroner found evidence of alcohol and drugs in his system, King’s death was ruled an accidental drowning due to his history of heart problems.

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