Controversial police beating that sparked riots in Los Angeles
Compiled from various sources
4WardEver Campaign – 10th June 2007
News updates on this case will be listed at the foot of this item
Rodney Glen King , an African-American taxi driver, became famous after his violent arrest by officers of the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) was videotaped by a bystander, George Holliday. The incident raised a public outcry among people who believed it was racially motivated. Rodney died in June 2012. In an environment of growing tension between the black community and the LAPD as well as increasing anger over police brutality and more general issues of unemployment, racial tension, and poverty facing the black community in South Central Los Angeles.
The acquittal in a state court of the four officers charged with using excessive force in subduing King provided the spark that led to the 1992 Los Angeles riots.
On 3rd March 1991 , Mr King, on parole from prison on a robbery conviction, led police on a high speed pursuit. Finally, he pulled over in the Lake View Terrace district. The Los Angeles police were assisted by other law enforcement. Officers had claimed that they believed he was under the influence of PCP (a dissociative drug formerly used as an anaesthetic).
Mr King resisted arrest even after being tazered, tackled, and struck with batons by four LAPD officers: Ofc. Laurence Powell, Ofc. Timothy Wind, Ofc. Theodore Briseno and Sgt. Stacey Koon, all white officers. He is also alleged to have lunged for the weapon of one of the police officers on site, although that event, supposedly being early in the altercation, was not caught on the tape. In a later interview, King said that, being on parole, he feared apprehension and being returned to prison for parole violations.
The incident, minus the first few minutes, was captured on video by a private citizen, George Holliday, from his apartment that was in the vicinity, and it became an international media sensation and a touchpoint for activists in Los Angeles and around the United States.
Eventually the Los Angeles district attorney charged four officers with the use of excessive force in the incident. Due to the media coverage of the incident, the trial received a change of venue to a newly constructed courthouse in predominantly white Simi Valley , in neighbouring Ventura County . The jury was made up of Ventura County residents.
On 29th April 1992 , three of the officers were acquitted by a jury of ten whites, one Latino, and an Asian. The jury could not agree on a verdict for one of the counts on one of the officers. The acquittal was based in part on a 13-second segment of the video tape that was edited out by television news stations in their broadcast. It was not previously seen by the public. Those first 13 seconds of videotape apparently showed Rodney King getting up off the ground and charging at one of the police officers, Ofc. Laurence Powell.
Prior to that, the testimony of the officers indicated that they tried to physically restrain King but, according to the officers, King was able to physically throw them off himself. That alleged incident was not caught on tape.
Based on this testimony and the previously unseen segment of the videotape, the officers were acquitted on almost all charges. The general public was largely unaware of the testimony and the unedited videotape footage.
It beggars belief that even with the extenuating circumstances of Mr King’s resistance to arrest, that such a harsh beating at the hands of so called public servants, went unpunished. In the eyes of almost all professional critics that have view the tape in its entirety, this was a brutal and unnecessary attack that could have easily ended with the death of Mr King.
If George Holliday hadn’t just bought a camcorder, if he hadn’t been intrigued to tape the beating, and if he hadn’t been persistent in getting his tape to the media, Rodney King might just have been another random incident in the LAPD files. Has there ever been an acknowledgement of just how coincidental the Rodney King case was?
Rodney King, key figure in L.A. riots, dead at 47
17 June 2012
Flashback: Rodney King and the LA riots
10 July 2002