UPDATE : June, 17, 2012, Rodney King, the man who was at the center of the infamous Los Angeles riots, was found dead this morning He was 47. According to media reports, King’s fiancée, Cynthia Kelly, found him dead at the bottom of a swimming pool. King recently marked the twentieth anniversary of the Los Angeles riots – the mayhem that took place after four police officers were acquitted of beating King in 1991. The beating, which was caught on camera, sparked national outrage and put King at the center of heated debate about the state of race relations in America. Mr. King, whose life was a roller coaster of drug and alcohol abuse, multiple arrests and unwanted celebrity, pleaded for calm during the 1992 riots. More than 55 people were killed and 600 buildings destroyed in the violence.
This is my video journal of the first night the L.A. Riots.
On April 29, 1992, twelve jurors in Simi Valley, California rendered their verdicts in a controversial case involving the 1991 beating of Rodney King by four LAPD officers. The case had received heavy media coverage dating from before it even went to trial, when a video of the beating hit the national airwaves. It came as a surprise then, as the verdicts were read: One of the officers was found guilty of excessive force; the other officers were cleared of all charges. The verdicts were broadcast live, and word spread quickly throughout Los Angeles. At various points throughout the city that afternoon, people began rioting. For the next three days the violence and mayhem continued. Mayor Tom Bradley imposed a curfew, schools and businesses were closed. Governor Pete Wilson dispatched 4,000 National Guard troops to patrol the streets. People stayed home, watching on TV with the rest of the country as live TV coverage showed fires raging throughout the city, innocent bystanders being assaulted and looters sacking businesses.
I was freelancing for several news organization and picked up an assignment for CBS News that evening. I was to cover Spike Lee speaking to the students at the University of California, Irvine. The drive is about 45 miles from L.A. After it was announced that Mr. Lee was unable to attend I made my way back to L.A. on the 405 freeway. I listened to KFWB all news radio for leads and followed police helicopters to cover the riots.
On Monday, May 4, schools and businesses reopened and life returned to some semblance of normality. The toll from the worst civil unrest LA had experienced since 1965 was devastating: more than 50 killed, over 4 thousand injured, 12,000 people arrested, and $1 billion in property damage.