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Rodney King's neighbors heard 'commotion' at his house

June 17, 2012 |  1:04 pm

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Rodney King's neighbors on East Jackson Street in Rialto said they heard "a little bit of a commotion" from his house late Saturday and early Sunday, something they said was out of character for their typically quiet neighbor.

King, whose beating by Los Angeles police helped spark the 1992 L.A. riots, was pronounced dead at a Colton hospital at 6:11 a.m. Sunday, authorities said. His fiancée called 911 about 5:25 a.m. when she found King at the bottom of his backyard pool.

Detectives are investigating the death as a drowning, said Rialto Police Capt. Randy DeAnda. King was known to be a good swimmer and there were no indications he suffered any trauma, or that alcohol or drugs were a factor, although that will not be determined until the coroner completes an autopsy and toxicology tests.

PHOTOS: Rodney King | 1965- 2012

Next-door neighbor Sandra Gardea, 31, said she heard what appeared to be a small gathering in King’s backyard early Sunday morning that grew loud enough for others to complain.

Gardea said about 3 or 3:30 a.m. she heard someone sobbing.

“It just sounded like someone was really sad,” she said. “There was a lot of moaning and crying. Another person was trying to console that person.”

VIDEOS: Rodney King

She said it was several hours later when she heard a splash, and that’s when police and paramedics arrived.

King and a friend had been poolside Saturday afternoon and into the evening, DeAnda said. King's fiancée, Cynthia Kelley, talked to him Saturday night before she went to bed, he said.

Kelley was the only person home at the time, DeAnda said. King’s friend had gone home earlier.

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Gardea said King rarely had gatherings and there had never been any problems with parties at King’s house.

Neighbor Bob Carlberg, 53, who lives two doors away, said he also heard what he described as a small party most of the night in King’s backyard.

“Last night I heard a little bit of commotion. It wasn’t really like a fight-fight fight. Sort of yelling back and forth," Carlberg said.

He continued: “I couldn’t really make it out. The neighbors behind, I heard they were screaming at him to be quiet. About 4:30 a.m. or 5 o’clock, it kind of got quiet."

But Carlberg said that overall King was a great neighbor, very private, who "really kept to himself."

"He’s one of the best neighbors in the neighborhood," Carlberg said. "He did get into trouble. But that was Rodney."

Neighbor Tondalaya Baker, 55, has lived in her home for 13 years and had "never seen any problem" with King.

"He was very private," she said. "He was very quiet. Very withdrawn. The only time we saw him was when he was working in his yard ... or coming and going."

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Cory Hudson, who lives just a few blocks away, said King often enjoyed swimming "at all hours of the night."

"I turned on the news and I heard [that King was dead]. Man, it's just devastating," Hudson said, adding the he didn't know any details about the incident.

"It's just sad. I feel bad for all the family members. It's been rough. I mean, he was just getting his life together."

Johnnie Kelley, who said he was King's former bodyguard, came by the house Sunday and consoled King's two daughters outside of the police tape.

"He's a good guy. He's a great guy. He's a kindhearted guy, maybe too kindhearted," he said.

Kelley said he "understood his pain and all the things he was going through — all the drinking and stuff like that" after the beating, police trial and riots.

"After going through a trauma like that, being beaten and still having to deal with the public and everything — and life, period — I can understand what he was going through."


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— Phil Willon in Rialto

Photo: Rodney King's daughters Candice, left, and Lora console each other outside the home of their father who was found dead in his swimming pool Sunday in Railto. Credit: Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times