George Holliday, man who filmed Rodney King beating, dies from COVID-19

Holliday wasn’t vaccinated and reportedly spent weeks on a ventilator

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The man who filmed Rodney King‘s infamous beating at the hands of the LAPD in 1991 has died after reportedly contracting COVID-19. He was 61.

George Holliday passed away Sunday while hospitalized with pneumonia in Simi Valley, CA, TMZ reports. Holliday wasn’t vaccinated and allegedly spent weeks on a ventilator, according to one of his close friends and his business partner. 

“We’re told he was plagued with blood clots and internal bleeding toward the end. His outgoing voicemail referenced he was in the hospital with COVID,” writes TMZ.

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George Holliday, Rodney King (YouTube screenshot)

It was Holliday’s homemade video recording of King’s beating by LAPD officers that sparked outrage and changed America in the 90s.

As previously reported by theGrio, in March 1991, King was stopped by the police following a high-speed chase, ordered out of his Hyundai, and repeatedly kicked, tasered and struck over 50 times with police batons, sustaining serious injuries.

Holliday filmed the scene from the balcony of his Lake View Terrace apartment.

The brutal beating of Rodney King was significant because for the first time, thanks to George Holliday’s camcorder, Black America was able to go to the videotape, so to speak. Certainly, this was not the first time that a Black man was brutalized by police. 

Without question, in the 1950s and 1960s, America and the world saw the televised images of civil rights workers being sprayed by fire hoses, bitten by four-legged police dogs— and beaten nearly to death by “two-legged dogs,” as Malcolm X so aptly referred to brutal police officers.

In a 2006 interview with the Los Angeles Times, Holliday admitted that he got more than he bargained for when he gave the eight-minute video to KTLA. He received a couple of death threats, he was blamed for causing the riots that erupted over the King case and he suffered two failed marriages.

Holiday’s video triggered a media sensation. The acquittal of officers involved in the King beating sparked the Los Angeles riots that led to 54 deaths and hundreds of destroyed buildings.

King sued the city and won a $3.8M settlement. 

Last summer, Holliday auctioned off his video camera “with a starting bid at nearly a quarter of a million dollars,” per TMZ. According to a statement at the time from the auction house: “The foam cover of the camera microphone is almost completely deteriorated, which is the condition in which the F.B.I. returned the camera to George Holliday circa 2015. The camcorder remains in very good condition otherwise.”

The Los Angeles Police Department subpoenaed the camera and videotape during the investigation into the King attack. The camcorder was ultimately returned to Holliday.

“The Rodney King video was the Jackie Robinson of police videos,” Rev. Al Sharpton previously said in an interview.

“He clearly did something historic,” Sharpton said. “If he wants to monetize it, that’s a private decision.”

theGrio reported that King’s 2012 death was ruled an accidental drowning and there were multiple illegal drugs in his system, police said.

Rialto Police said the county medical examiner’s report showed King had drugs such as PCP, cocaine and marijuana in his system when he died. King also had a blood-alcohol level of .06 percent.

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