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Rodney King's brother stunned by his unexpected death

June 18, 2012 |  7:35 pm

As authorities continue to probe the cause of Rodney King's death, family members said they are struggling with their sudden loss.

Rodney King’s youngest brother, Zhan Paul King, on Monday said his family is dealing with the loss “the best that we can."

He urged people to ignore rumors or innuendo and instead focus on his brother’s life of perseverance. “We appreciate all the support we’ve had over the years, and we’re going to need that support now," he said.

The family still is making funeral arrangements, though nothing has been finalized, he said.

Officials will not have a final cause of death for King until the completion of toxicology tests in six to eight weeks, San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department spokeswoman Jodi Miller said. 

VIDEOS: Rodney King

The toxicology tests and autopsy may determine if King, 47, suffered from an undiagnosed medical condition that caused him to lose consciousness or if he had been drinking or was under the influence of drugs. He was found Sunday morning in the pool of his Rialto home.

Police said King’s body showed no signs of trauma, and no traces of blood were found on the concrete pool deck or in the water.

Investigators are looking into reports by a next-door neighbor who said she heard a man sobbing uncontrollably in King's backyard shortly before a splash.

PHOTOS: Rodney King | 1965- 2012

King’s fiancee, Cynthia Kelley, called 911 at 5:25 a.m. after finding him at the bottom of the pool. She told detectives she was unable to rescue him herself because she is a poor swimmer.

“Even though we’re investigating this as an accidental drowning, we’re looking into every lead," Rialto Police Department spokesman Officer David Shephard said.

One of King’s neighbors, Sandra Gardea, 31, said she heard a man crying in King's backyard from about 3  to 5 a.m. King and his fiancee were the only ones home at the time, according to police. Gardea also heard King's fiancee trying to coax him into the house.

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"It's wasn't like an argument," Gardea said. "She was just saying, 'Get in the house. Get in the house.'"

Gardea, whose open bedroom window faces King's house, said then there was silence. A few minutes later, Gardea said she heard a splash.

Rialto police said officers arrived at the house about four minutes after the 911 call and immediately dived into the pool and pulled King’s body from the water.

Another neighbor, Dee Schnepf, 58, said she didn’t hear any commotion in King’s backyard that night. Schnepf said she arrived home early Sunday morning and was in her backyard about 3:30 a.m. feeding her cats.

“I didn’t hear a thing, and I would have heard something," said Schnepf.

Schnepf said it was common for King to take a swim at night or early in the morning, and that “he liked  to swim in the dark."

“He was so sweet. He’d mow our lawns once a week and never asked for any money," Schnepf said. “He and my ex-husband were real good friends. They’d trade tools back and forth. It’s unbelievable that he’s gone. I feel like he could just walk over at any minute."

King became a symbol to many of police brutality and the troubled relations between the Los Angeles Police Department and minority residents after his 1991 beating at the hands of police, which led to deadly riots in the city after officers in the beating case were acquitted in 1992. King was eventually awarded a $3.8-million settlement, but money and fame brought him little peace. He had repeated run-ins with the law and as of April said he was broke.

King had long struggled with drugs and alcohol. He called himself a recovering addict but had not stopped drinking, and he possessed a doctor's clearance for medical marijuana. Last year he appeared on VH1’s "Celebrity Rehab," trying to tackle his alcoholism.

Monday morning, King’s Jackson Street neighborhood was quiet, with a scattering of television news trucks and a single patrol car camped outside King's home. The crime-scene tape stretched across the  driveway was gone, as was his fiancee.

The porch light was still on.


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-- Phil Willon in Rialto