On April 29, 1992, a jury in the Los Angeles suburb of Simi Valley acquits four police officers who had been charged with using excessive force in arresting black motorist Rodney King a year earlier. The announcement of the verdict, which enraged the black community, prompted the L.A. riots, which spread quickly throughout much of the sprawling city. It wasn’t until three days later that the arson and looting finally ended.
Immediately after the verdict was announced that afternoon, protestors took to the streets, engaging in random acts of violence. At the corner of Florence and Normandie streets, Reginald Denny, a white truck driver, was dragged from his truck and severely beaten by several angry rioters. A helicopter crew caught the incident on camera and broadcast it live on local television. Continue reading from The History Channel
Rodney Glen King was a 25-year-old Black man whose brutal beating by several officers from the Los Angeles Police Department after a high-speed chase, was caught on video. At a press conference announcing the 14 officers involved would be disciplined, and three would face criminal charges, Los Angeles police chief said: "We believe the officers used excessive force taking him into custody. In our review, we find that officers struck him with batons between 53 and 56 times."
Rodney was taken to Pacifica Hospital after his arrest, where he was found to have suffered a fractured facial bone, a broken right ankle and multiple bruises and lacerations. Pacifica Hospital nurses reported that the officers who accompanied Rodney openly joked and bragged about the number of times they had hit him.
No charges were filed against Rodney King. On his release, he spoke to reporters from his wheelchair, with his injuries evident: a broken right leg in a cast, his face badly cut and swollen, bruises on his body, and a burn area to his chest where he had been jolted with a 50,000-volt stun gun. Rodney described how he had knelt, spread his hands out, and slowly tried to move so as not to make any “stupid move,” while being hit across the face by a baton and shocked. He said he was scared for his life as they drew down on him.
Four out of the nine officers involved were charged with excessive force, but three officers were acquitted, and the jury failed to reach a verdict for one officer. This acquittal led to the public outrage that gave rise to the 1992 Los Angeles riots, which lasted six days and left 63 people dead and 2,383 more injured. During the riots, on May 1, 1992, Rodney King made a television appearance pleading for an end to the riots. “I just want to say – you know – can we all get along? Can we, can we get along? Can we stop making it horrible for the older people and the kids?” Continue reading from Stanford University