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Rodney King dead at 47: 'I was one of the lucky ones'

June 17, 2012 | 10:40 am

Rodney King found dead at 47
Rodney King, the victim of a police beating who wound up at the center of major political upheavals in Los Angeles, was found dead early Sunday. King was found by his girlfriend at the bottom of his pool at his home in Rialto. He was 47.

Our blog L.A. Now recounts how King entered the public spotlight:

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 became an instant international sensation.

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.

Although King received a substantial financial settlement, he was plagued by personal challenges. He recounted his experiences in the recent memoir "The Riot Within: My Journey from Rebellion to Redemption." The book was published by HarperOne this April, on the 20th anniversary of the L.A. riots.

King appeared at the L.A. Times Festival of Books to talk about his book.

King, for his part, arrived out of breath, and spoke of forgiveness for the officers involved in his videotaped beating after a high-speed chase. With his history of substance abuse, he said, he has been in need of some forgiveness. "I am a forgiving man," he said. "That's how I was raised, to be in a forgiving state of mind. I have been forgiven many times. I am only human. Who am I not to forgive someone?"

King said he was uncomfortable with his role as a political symbol, while noting that those who fought racism in the early 20th century faced even more difficult challenges. "I'm so glad I wasn't born in the 1930s or the 1940s," he said. "My heart goes out to those who have died for what's right....I was one of the lucky ones," which drew a large laugh from the audience. He added, "The camera was a blessing."

Authorities said there were no immediate signs of foul play.


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

Book review: "Power Concedes Nothing" by Connie Rice

Rodney King and the L.A. Riots: when 20 years can seem like yesterday

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo: Rodney King addresses the media May 1, 1992, asking for an end to the violence of the L.A. riots. Credit: Larry Davis / Los Angeles Times