LOS ANGELES, Calif.–Rodney King, whose videotaped beating by Los Angeles police officers spawned widespread reforms and led to the worst urban riots in a generation, died today at age 47.
King’s fiancee found him in a swimming pool at about 5:25 a.m. at his home in Rialto in San Bernardino County.
Arriving officers in their uniforms jumped into the water to pull him to the surface and start resuscitation efforts, Rialto police Lt. Dean Hardin said.
Firefighters also tried rescue efforts and took King to Arrowhead Regional Medical Center in Colton, where he was pronounced dead at 6:11 a.m.
“There were no obvious signs of trauma,” Capt. Randy DeAnda said.
“Rialto police are conducting a drowning investigation at this time.”
King had apparently spoken with his fiancee, Cynthia Kelley, in the minutes before she discovered him in the pool behind their modest tract house 55 miles east of Los Angeles, police said.
San Bernardino County coroners are to conduct an autopsy Monday or Tuesday, officers said.
Kelley apparently became acquainted with King after she sat as a juror in the civil lawsuit that awarded King $3.8 million for his injuries at the hands of four Los Angeles police officers in 1991.
King was catapulted to worldwide fame in when an amateur video photographer named George Holliday heard police helicopters whirling over his apartment, and picked up his new video camera to record the blurry images of four LAPD officers kicking a motorist who had been pulled from his car.
When the four police officers were acquitted in a trial in Simi Valley in 1992, South Los Angeles erupted in riots. Fifty-three people were killed in the unrest.
King appeared on television on the third day of rioting, pleading “Can’t we all just get along?”
In an interview with National Public Radio last April, King said his flight from police back was caused by a desire to avoid a drunken driving arrest on a night before he had to go to work.
“My family, everything that I had been working hard for since I’d been out of jail, my whole life was like flashed in front of me,” King told NPR.
“I made a bad mistake by running from them.”
King told interviewers last April that he had spent nearly all of the $3.8 million in civil judgments he had won against the LAPD, spending it on lawyers, relatives and himself.
King appeared at this spring’s Los Angeles Times Festival of Books to promote his tome “The Riot Within: My Journey From Rebellion To Redemption.”
Attendees said he was hopeful and happy, but confessed to being a recovering addict who suffers nightmares and flashbacks from the beating.
King also said he forgave the officers.