Rodney King, the longtime drug abuser whose videotaped 1991 beating at the hands of Los Angeles police officers after a high-speed chase attracted international attention, has been found dead in a swimming pool at his home.
King’s fiancé, Cynthia Kelley, reportedly told friends that he had been drinking all day Saturday, and at one point smoked marijuana. She said that she awoke around 2 a.m. to the sounds of a naked King beating on the glass.
Kelley, a juror who helped decide King’s civil lawsuit against the city of Los Angeles, said she then went to grab the phone when she heard a giant splash from the pool. Paramedics were called to the scene, but could not revive King.
The riots that followed the acquittal of four police officers involved in King’s beating resulted in widespread chaos in Los Angeles in 1992. Dozens were killed, thousands were injured and the rioters caused over $1 billion in damage to the city — but King saw the whole incident as a positive event.
“It changed things. It made the world a better place,” King said of his beating, which he said left him an “inch from death.”
The riots nearly killed white truck driver Reginald Denny, who was pulled from his vehicle by a black mob and brutally pulverized. Surgeons had to repair his shattered skull and return one of his eyes to its socket.
The 47-year-old King in April celebrated the 20th anniversary of the riots, and he appeared to take some credit for the election of President Barack Obama.
“Obama? Obama, he wouldn’t have been in office without what happened to me and a lot of black people before me,” King said. “He would never have been in that situation, no doubt in my mind. He would get there eventually, but it would have been a lot longer. So I am glad for what I went through. It opened the doors for a lot of people.”
King had a troubled history in the past two decades, and he was jobless and poor at the time of his death. According to the Los Angeles Times, King had all but blown the nearly $4 million in settlement money he received from the city of Los Angeles in a civil rights lawsuit after his beating.
“During deliberations, the other jurors said, ‘Let’s just award him $100,000, you know he’s just gonna blow it anyway,'” Kelley told RadarOnline.
King was arrested for driving his car into a tree in 2003 while high on PCP. He also reported being shot numerous times in 2007, and appeared on the “Sober House” and “Celebrity Rehab” reality television shows in 2009.
“PCP ain’t no joke,” King said earlier this year, adding that he could not even count the number of times he had been arrested.
No further information about King’s death is available at this time.