Rodney King radio interview: Police still lack 'respect' for blacks
In what a local radio station said is one of the last interviews with Rodney King prior to his death, the man who became a symbol of police brutality and troubled race relations said he still wants people to "just get along.”
King, 47, was found dead at the bottom of his pool at his home in Rialto on June 17. Coroner’s officials are still investigating his cause of death.
But in an interview recorded about a month prior to his death, King talked to KPFK about topics ranging from his tumultuous childhood to the infamous beating to the recent Trayvon Martin shooting.
In the hour-long talk, King emphasized how far race relations have come and how much further society still needs to go.
"The American Negro gets no respect when it come to law enforcement and brutality and his life means nothing," King said in the interview, which the station said it aired for the first time Tuesday. "Despite all the hard work, despite all the killing that has gone on over the years … we are not where we used to be but we are definitely not where we're supposed to be.”
King was drunk and unarmed when he was pulled over in 1991 for speeding by Los Angeles Police Department officers, who responded to his erratic behavior by kicking him and striking him dozens of times with their batons.
The incident was captured on video by a civilian bystander, and the recording was immediately seen around the world.
Four of the officers were tried for excessive force. Their acquittal on April 29, 1992, touched off one of the worst urban riots in U.S. history.
In vivid detail, King recalled “hearing my bones being broken” during the beating and said it brought back memories of his father whipping him with an extension cord.
“After a while, I didn’t even have the strength to protect myself,” King said. “I was beaten within inches of my life.”
King also recalled the jury trial and how concerned he was when it was moved from Los Angeles to the Simi Valley. He talked about the verdict, his journey toward forgiveness and current events like the killing of Florida teen Trayvon Martin in February -- a situation King said he gets “real touchy about.”
“When you kill somebody like that, you’re killing God. You’re trying to kill God. That’s all it is. God made that person. He can’t bring another person back.”
King specifically attacked George Zimmerman, the man charged with killing the unarmed teenager.
“He wants to stand and look like a cop," King said. "His whole demeanor reminds me of the violent police. I can see it. I can see it all too well.”
Toward the end of the interview, King also touched on the topic of death -- and of his hope for the future.
"When any of us die of any type of violence … it just takes away from the thing we called life and the progress we could have gotten," King said.
“It’s up to each and every one of us, that understands, once we get to a certain age, what hate really means. And what’s behind it. And get away from it. And move to something positive. Can’t we all just get along?”
-- Matt Stevens
Photo: Rodney King at his home in Rialto in March. Credit: Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times