While the majority of people in the world want to be the driving force for change, very few would have chosen to do so by being hospitalized after being beaten by police officers. Unfortunately, Rodney King did not have that choice. On March 3, 1991, Rodney became a symbol of police brutality and began a fight for change after being recorded on tape as he was brutally beaten by police officers.
From then on, his life would never be the same again – moments before the incident when he was just another cab driver in the City of Angels. Who was Rodney King? These and other important details from his life are discussed below.
Who Was Rodney King?
When Ronald and Odessa King welcomed their little boy on April 2, 1965, both parents had no idea that their child would one day become a symbol of police brutality in the country. Certainly, not even Rodney knew that. A man who himself had a difficult childhood after losing his father to alcohol abuse, Rodney was a convicted criminal after being found guilty of robbing a grocery store.
After his release, King took up cab driving. After a night of watching basketball and drinking at a friend’s house, King drove back to his house with his friends in the early morning hours of March 3, 1991, and was stopped on the Foothill Freeway. The friends were caught and pursued at excessive speed by the California Highway Patrol after King refused to stop because driving under the influence of alcohol would jeopardize his parole.
The pursuit lasted 13 km and included several other police officers and a helicopter. After King was apprehended, he got into a scuffle with police officers that ended in brutal beatings.
George Holliday proved to be the man who would light the fire of a racial protest. A record of the incident showed that Rodney was twice tasered by L.A. police, whereupon he was beaten with batons by several police officers. The recording of the incident landed on KTLA television and sparked an uprising that lasted six days and took the National Guard, the Army, and the United States Marine Corps to crush the protests and restore peace.
King’s evaluation at the hospital revealed that he had a fractured facial bone, a broken right ankle, and several bruises. Although the officers who committed this serious atrocity were never prosecuted in the state of Los Angeles for any wrongdoing that led to the infamous 1992 riots in Los Angeles, King filed a lawsuit against the city and won a $3.8 million settlement.
After the protest was crushed, King became a voice against police brutality and an activist. With the money from his severance pay, he founded a record label with the intention of staffing it with minority employees, but the business failed.
King tried to live his life and put the incident behind him, even though it had involuntarily made him a famous person. After a few failed marriages, he met Cynthia Kelly and the two agreed to marry in 2012. Unfortunately, King suffered from the same disease as his father, alcoholism.
He was arrested several times for driving under the influence of alcohol and speeding. In 2008 he checked himself into a rehabilitation center in the hope of getting his addiction under control. In 2012, before his death, King published a memoir entitled The Riot Within My Journey from Rebellion to Salvation.
His story, and in particular the 1991 incident, has been the subject of various works of art. It has been filmed several times, and documentaries have been made that retell the story.
King is known for having called for an end to the riot while lying in his hospital bed with the famous words – “Can’t we all get along” – and his daughter Lord King created a foundation in the service of these words, which is dedicated to bridging the gap between the police and members of the African-American community.
Death – How Did He Die?
Rodney was found dead in his swimming pool on June 17, 2012. After an autopsy was performed on his body, it was determined that he had died from an accident due to a combination of several drugs in his body. He was found dead by his fiancée, Cynthia Kelly.
Other Facts You Didn’t Know
- Rodney King died exactly 28 years after the death of his father. Both men died in a puddle of water from alcohol abuse.
- Although the officers who beat Rodney was never convicted in a state trial, they were found guilty of excessive violence at the federal level and the two were sentenced to 30 months in prison.
- The 1991 riots resulted in more than 7000 fires, 63 deaths, and 2383 injuries. The riots spread to other cities such as San Francisco, Las Vegas, and Seattle. There were also minor riots in Toronto, Canada.