Inspiration Of A Troubled Life: Rodney King

I just want to take a moment to pay tribute to a father gone to soon. RIP, Rodney King

Rodney King, who gained national fame when his 1991 beating by Los Angeles police was caught on videotape, was reportedly shot late Wednesday night (Nov. 28, 2007).

King, 42, was wounded on a San Bernardino street corner before biking about 1 1/2 miles back to his home in neighboring Rialto to report the incident at 11:39 p.m., police said.

He had been shot two or three times with birdshot fired from a shotgun, police said. King, who was allegedly appeared drunk when police arrived at his home, was hit in the face, arms, back and torso. He was taken to a local hospital, but the wounds were not believed to be life-threatening.

No arrests were made, and other details of the shooting were sketchy. There was “speculation” that the shooting may have involved some kind of domestic dispute, but “we’re not sure about that yet,” San Bernardino police Lt. Scott Paterson said.

Beating Incident by LAPD

King, an African-American, gained national attention when amateur cameraman George Holliday captured video of four white Los Angeles police officers clubbing and kicking him. The incident followed a high-speed car chase on March 3, 1991.

The officers — Laurence Powell, Timothy Wind, Theodore Briseno, and Stacey Koon — were charged with criminal offenses, including assault with a deadly weapon. Their trial was originally set to be held in Los Angeles, but defense attorneys successfully argued that a fair trial in L.A. would be impossible because of the publicity.

The trial was moved to Simi Valley, a predominantly white suburb of L.A. The jury was comprised of ten white people, one Hispanic person, and one Asian person, and many people objected to the fact that there were no African Americans on the jury.

Acquittal and Resulting Riots

The officers’ acquittal in April 1992 triggered riots in South Central, Los Angeles. More than fifty people were killed and more than 2,000 were injured. 9,500 were arrested for rioting, looting, and arson.

The United States Department of Justice filed federal civil rights charges against the four officers, and in August of 1992 two of them were found guilty while the other two were acquitted.

King was eventually awarded $3.8 million in a civil trial for the injuries he sustained.

The riots and police response to it resulted in the resignation of Police Chief Darryl Gates, thought by many minorities to symbolize institutionalized racial intolerance. He was replaced by a black chief, Willie Williams, who introduced several changes suggested by an independent commission that investigated the riots.

Rodney Glen King, born April 2, 1965 in Fort Worth, Texas, has reportedly had several brushes with the law over the years.

Troubled Life and Death

After his beating by police officers in 1991, King continued to lead a troubled life, struggling with alcholism and having brushes with the law. In 2004, he pleaded guilty to driving under the influence of the drug PCP after he lost control of his SUV and slammed into a power pole in Rialto, California. In 2005, he was arrested on suspicion of domestic violence, and in 2007, police found him drunk with non-life threatening gunshot wounds also believed to be the result of a domestic dispute.

King shared his struggles as a reality TV star on shows such as VH1’s Celebrity Rehab and in his 2012 memoir The Riot Within: My Journey from Rebellion to Redemption.

Upon the 20th anniversary of the L.A. riots, King told CNN he had forgiven the officers who had beaten him, saying, “Yes, I have forgiven them because I have been forgiven so many times. My country’s been good to me, and I’ve done some things that wasn’t pleasant in my lifetime and I’ve been forgiven for that.”

In a final tragic twist, Rodney King’s life ended on June 17, 2012, found by his fiancee Cynthia Kelly at the bottom of a swimming pool in Rialto, California. There were no preliminary signs of foul play and he was pronounced dead at a local hospital, 20 years after the L.A. riots threw him into the center of the debate on race in America.


  1. I think what makes me terribly sad is that this is the 20th anniversary and I fear we have learned nothing from how racist the United States still is and how far we have yet to go.

  2. I was 11 in 1991 and it was one of the first times I can remember activating MY VOICE against social inequalities…

  3. I may not have a first hand experience regarding racism but the one thing I know and that which applies to everyone is to treat people the way we want to be treated.

  4. Nicely said and quite informative without any biases. You are just stating the facts and stories. I am glad to see more intelligent feedback here unlike what you see on the mainstream comment boards. Instead of some wishing the man a peaceful journey, they spend time race baiting and on the negatives of what happened in the riots, etc. Interesting day and time. We are discussing Rodney King who departed on Fathers Day. We are in a time of a forthcoming and what will be the most negative presidential election ever. We came a long way but it seems we keep making many steps backward. Indeed, we can hope for the best and the few of us who want peace just keep on striving for it. Happy Fathers Day. May Rodney King find peace in the light.

  5. For a better journey in life education is an advantage. This helps you better understand and adapt to all that life dumps on you. It is easy to spark fire of race on people trapped on a journey of low quality public education, if this is not corrected quickly the result is never good. To be of society is to be part of it, and as part of it we all win.!

  6. I hate to say this but honestly I just learned of the 90s incident yesterday. All this while I just thought of him as a reality show star. Shame on me! We have come far as a country but we still a lot more to do. We’ll get there. Thanks for sharing this!

  7. Wow. What a life – and a will to live! So sad to hear about Mr. King’s death.

    Om shanti, shanti, om.

  8. I watched part of an interview with Rodney King yesterday. I was most impressed by his willingness to forgive. He commented that he had made many mistakes and benefited from the forgiveness of others. What an uplifting message. I am an outsider on this issue as a Canadian, but admire those who can find it in their hearts to forgive.

  9. Wow…I am utterly speechless. His life must have been so exhausting for him and his loved ones. Prayers go out to them..

  10. I am utterly speechless…his life must have been so exhausting for him and his family surely he had to be so very tired. Prayers go out to them and rest in the midst of such a tragic and trying time.

  11. oops, didn’t mean to post twice : o

  12. At least he went for a swim this time instead of driving a car while on PCP.

  13. Well done. Thank you for doing this!

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