Rodney King, whose videotaped beating shook the world in 1991, is dead at age 47, NBC News has confirmed.
King’s fiancée reportedly called 911 to their home in Rialto, California shortly after 5:20 a.m. Sunday morning to report that King was lying at the bottom of the swimming pool. Police arrived within minutes and attempted CPR, but King was unresponsive, NBC News reports. King was transferred to a local hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 6:11 a.m. Pacific time. There were reportedly no signs of foul play, but police are beginning a drowning investigation.
King came to prominence in 1991 after he was beaten by Los Angeles police officers in an incident captured on videotape by an onlooker, George Holliday. The trial of the officers, which resulted in their acquittal, sparked the L.A. riots — days of violence in April 1992 that became a symbol of civil and racial unrest, and police brutality. King, attempting to quell the violence, said during a press conference, “can’t we all just get along?”
Of the seven officers seen beating a helpless King following a high-speed chase through the streets of Los Angeles, four went to trial and were acquitted in state court, sparking days of deadly riots. Two of the officers, Stacey Koon and Laurence Powell, were later convicted in federal court of violating King’s civil rights, and each served 30 month sentences. All four officers were fired by the LAPD in 1994.
King had several subsequent arrests and had difficulties with alcohol abuse, but had recently released a book.
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UPDATE: TMZ is reporting that Cynthia Kelley, Rodney King’s fiancée, is telling friends that he was “drinking all day” all day Saturday at his house in Rialto, California, and smoked marijuana at some point before Kelley went to bet at around 2 a.m. Sunday. Those details have not been confirmed by theGrio.
Kelley called 911 after reportedly finding King at the bottom of their swimming pool in the early morning hours Sunday.
Kelley was the lone African-American on the jury in King’s 1994 civil suit against the LAPD. That jury awarded King $3.8 million in damages stemming from the infamous 1991 beating at the hands of Los Angeles police. The two began a romance soon after the trial ended, though both had been married at the time the case began. They briefly separated after King’s appearance on VH1’s Celebrity Rehab, but apparently had reunited, and were planning to be married. They shared the home where King’s body was found.
King’s book, The Riot Within: My Journey from Rebellion to Redemption, was released in April. In it, he described his ongoing battle with alcohol abuse, among many personal struggles in the 20 years since the beating and riots.