Southern California -- this just in

« Previous Post | L.A. NOW Home | Next Post »

Steve Lopez: Rodney King was tragic figure, unlikely symbol

Click for more photos

It seemed from a distance that Rodney King spent much of his adult life on the edge of death, a tragic and symbolic figure unable to cope with life, adversity and fame.

   Steve LopezBeaten nearly to death by police after being pulled over while driving drunk as a young man, and then fighting the tug of alcohol and drugs into middle age, he ultimately died in a backyard drowning that seemed almost metaphorical -- a man who treaded life's treacherous currents at times but seemed often to be sinking, never free from the clutches of his many demons.

His death comes just two months after the 20th anniversary of what came to be known as the Rodney King riots, a date marked by the release of his book, "The Riot Within: My Journey from Rebellion to Redemption."

PHOTOS: Rodney King | 1965- 2012

Hearing him talk about the book, it wasn't clear that he had begun to approach any level of stability or peace.

"It made the world a better place," King told The Times in an interview about his beating. What it did was put police on alert.

The savage beating, captured on video, was no doubt a stimulus for change -- change for the better -- in the Los Angeles Police Department.

VIDEOS: Rodney King

And though King never seemed comfortable or capable as a symbol of civil rights, in some ways he always will be, his early death is a reminder that while race relations may have improved somewhat and things may have changed for the better in South Los Angeles -- where dozens died and millions of dollars worth of property were destroyed in the riots that bear King's name -- there's still a ways to go.


Photos: Rodney King

Rodney King, dead at 47

Video: Rodney King beating

King found at bottom of pool by fiancee

King's death investigated as a drowning

King struggled with demons after beating

Rodney King 'grieving' for Trayvon Martin

Streeter: The past still grips Rodney King

Rodney King had yet to 'realize his importance'

Rodney King spoke to fiancee before she found him

Rev. Al Sharpton calls King 'symbol of civil rights'

Morrison: Rodney King, 20 years after L.A.'s riots

--Steve Lopez

Photo credit: Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times

Comments () | Archives (0)


Recommended on Facebook


In Case You Missed It...


About L.A. Now
L.A. Now is the Los Angeles Times’ breaking news section for Southern California. It is produced by more than 80 reporters and editors in The Times’ Metro section, reporting from the paper’s downtown Los Angeles headquarters as well as bureaus in Costa Mesa, Long Beach, San Diego, San Francisco, Sacramento, Riverside, Ventura and West Los Angeles.
Have a story tip for L.A. Now?
Can I call someone with news?
Yes. The city desk number is (213) 237-7847.


Get Alerts on Your Mobile Phone

Sign me up for the following lists: