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How Did Rodney King Die?

Kevork Djansezian / Getty Images

Family and friends of the civil-rights symbol are questioning his fiancée’s account of his death, Allison Samuels reports.

Friends and family of Rodney King insist the 47-year old was excited about beginning a new chapter in his life. He’d recently released a book (The Riot Within: My Journey from Rebellion to Redemption) detailing his journey before and after he became a lightning rod for race issues in 1991 as a result of his beating by the Los Angeles police and the deadly riots that followed. There was also talk of a Hollywood film about his experiences, as well as more celebrity-boxing matches that often brought in large, five-figure paydays.

The Politician

‘We Still Have a Long Way to Go’

John Gaps III / AP Photos

City controller Wendy Greuel spent her career addressing inequality in Los Angeles—and then saw her work burnt to the ground. Now she’s running for mayor to finish the job.

April 29, 1992, was one of the saddest days of my life. I was an assistant to Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley at the time, working on issues of homelessness and economic development—things that were directly related to South Los Angeles. The evening after the verdict of the Rodney King trial was announced, we in the mayor’s office had planned to meet at the First African Methodist Episcopal Church with religious leaders, elected officials, and members of the community to discuss—regardless of the verdict—what we can do better in Los Angeles.

The Bullhorn

Live From the L.A. Riots

AP Photo (2)

Arsenio Hall was told to shut down his talk show while the city was embroiled in race riots. Instead, he marched into South Central with a bulletproof vest—and a white guy.

When VH1 first asked me to participate in their special documentary on the Los Angeles Riots, I said no. I didn’t think I had the memory needed to offer anything of note about it, so why waste their time?Then I went to bed that night. You know how your mind starts racing when you’re trying fall asleep? My mind really began to race. Throughout the night all those images of 20 years ago came back with a vengeance. I couldn’t sleep, because I was having flashbacks of people like Edward James Olmos and Sean Penn on my show the first night the riots broke out.


Dramatic L.A. Riots Photos

David Butow, SABA / Corbis

Looters, arson, gunfire in the streets—for six days, Los Angeles was in the grip of riots. See photos.

Watch This!

9 Infamous L.A. Riots Videos

The shocking violence of 1992 played out on televisions across the country. From videotaped beatings to the shocking gunfights in Koreatown, watch the riots’ most searing moments.

Rodney King: ‘Can We All Get Along?’After a year-long trial, three of the officers involved in the beating of Rodney King were acquitted of their charges. The verdict shocked many and triggered six days of rioting in Los Angeles. With no hope for a resolution in sight, the man behind the controversy came forward in an attempt to ease tensions. Speaking slowly and visibly shaken, King tried to unite Los Angeles with his simple and now famous line “Can we all get long?”Reginald Denny: Driving into a MobOn April 29th, Reginald Denny was driving his 18-wheeler through L.

The Journalist

L.A. Riots’ Eye in the Sky

Paul Sakuma / AP Photo

Bob Tur invented the news helicopter—and used it to film the beating of Reginald Denny on live TV. He tells Matt DeLuca about his strange souvenir, his wife's warning, and more.

Well before the Los Angeles riots broke out on April 29, 1992, Bob Tur knew what was missing from television news: images. Footage of what was happening as it was happening. Not shot from a news van or a cameraman’s shoulder, but from high above—from a helicopter.Tur, who would go on to shoot some of the most important footage in the history of television news, was 21 years old when he began pitching his idea to L.A. television stations in the 1980s.

The Front Page

‘Has Beverly Hills Fallen Yet?’

kili-Casundria Ramsess / AP Photo

When rioting engulfed the City of Angels, L.A. Times Editor Shelby Coffey and his team literally jumped into the fray--and helped us make sense of the unimaginable.

ACT I: FIRST NIGHTThe rocks smashed my office windows just after dark--broken glass all over the carpets of the Los Angeles Times’s proud fortress on Spring Street. Down the block, two buildings were on fire. I remember how red the flames looked against the black sky. Chemical fire?, I wondered. Way too close to us, in any case, as were the sirens.An afternoon of scattered protests around the Southland after the shock of the Rodney King trial verdict had now come right into our house.

The Catalyst

Rodney King’s Legacy

Matt Sayles / AP Photo

Twenty years after race riots set L.A. aflame, the victim at the center of it all talks to Allison Samuels about the wounds that still need healing.

Anger is something Rodney King prefers to keep at bay. The 47-year-old victim of one of the most notorious police-brutality cases says he’s made peace with the incident that changed his life, as well as the lives of so many others, on May 3, 1991.King’s beating by Los Angeles Police Department officers after being stopped for speeding and reckless driving set the stage for one of the worst race riots in the nation’s history. The severity of the videotaped beating, and the reaction to it, continue to have a profound impact some 20 years later.


Where Are They Now?

Peter Turnley / Corbis

Twenty years later, Rodney King is weighing in on the Trayvon case, Reginald Denny has gone underground, and one of the “L.A. Four” is dead. The Daily Beast looks at where the riots’ indelible names ended up.

In His Own Words

Rodney King Remembers

Rodney King’s Legacy

Rodney King’s Legacy

Twenty years after the L.A. riots, the victim at the center of it all talks of wounds that still need healing.

Watch This

9 Infamous L.A. Riots Videos

9 Infamous L.A. Riots Videos

From videotaped beatings to the gunfights in Koreatown, the riots’ most searing moments.

The Front Page

‘Has Beverly Hills Fallen Yet?’

‘Has Beverly Hills Fallen Yet?’

When the 1992 riots erupted, L.A. Times Editor Shelby Coffey and his team literally jumped into the fray.

LA Riots Backstory: 'Gorillas in the Mist'

The video of Rodney King's brutal beating first aired on local news the night of March 3, 1991. Shocking as it was, its place in history was not guaranteed. Newsweek & The Daily Beast's Kathy O'Hearn was the LA bureau chief for ABC News at the time. She recounts the debate inside the newsroom as the nation's leading TV news organization broke a critically important piece of the Rodney King story.

Reliving History

Timeline of the L.A. Riots

  • March 3, 1991

    Police officers attempt to pull over Rodney King, but he engages them in a high-speed chase instead. When he finally comes to a stop, he is asked to exit the car. Four officers beat him for over a minute, using tasers and batons.

  • March 16, 1991

    Fifteen-year-old black teenage Latasha Harlins is shot dead by a Korean covenience store owner in Los Angeles who suspected her of shoplifting. The incident, which happened one day after the Rodney King officers pled not guilty, is seen by many as an underreported catalyst of the riots.

  • Nov 15, 1991

    Soon Ja Du, who shot Latasha Harlins, is found guilty of involuntary manslaughter but avoids prison time.

  • April 29, 1992

    On the seventh day of jury deliberations, all four officers in the King case are acquitted. Almost immediately, riots start in south central Los Angeles.

    At 6:45 p.m., Reginald Denny is beaten nearly to death at the intersection of Florence and Normandie avenues. It's captured on film (via helicopter) by Bob Tur.

  • April 30, 1992

    President Bush addresses the nation from the Oval Office, saying that "anarchy" will not be tolerated.

  • May 1, 1992

    Rodney King appears on TV, asking, "People, I just want to say, you know, can we all get along?"

    Meanwhile, the first of 10,000 National Guard troops flood into Los Angeles.

  • May 2, 1992

    The Justice Dept. announces an inquiry into Rodney King's beating.

  • May 3, 1992

    Mayor Bradley lifts the curfew he had imposed on L.A., signifying the official end to the six-day riots.

  • March 9, 1993

    Rodney King testifies in the federal retrial of the LAPD officers. In a later civil case, he is awarded $3.8 million.