Rodney King

Rodney King
Rodney King
Born Rodney Glen King
April 2, 1965 (1965-04-02) (age 46)
Sacramento, California
Nationality American
Known for Victim of civil rights violation involving police brutality
Height 6 ft 3 inches
Partner Cynthia Kelley (engaged)[1]
Children 3
Parents Ronald King (deceased)
Odessa King

Rodney Glen King (born April 2, 1965) is an American best known for his involvement in a police brutality case involving the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) on March 3, 1991. A bystander, George Holliday, videotaped much of the incident from a distance.

The footage showed LAPD officers repeatedly striking King with their batons while other officers stood by watching, without taking any action to stop the beating. A portion of this footage was aired by news agencies around the world, causing public outrage that raised tensions between the black community and the LAPD and increased anger over police brutality and social inequalities in Los Angeles.

Four LAPD officers were later tried in a state court for the beating; three were acquitted and the jury failed to reach a verdict for the fourth. The announcement of the acquittals sparked the 1992 Los Angeles riots. A later federal trial for civil rights violations ended with two of the officers found guilty and sent to prison and the other two officers acquitted.


Early and personal life

King was born in Sacramento, California to Odessa King, who had four other children. His father died at age 42. King grew up in Pasadena, California.[2]

In November 1989, King robbed a store in Monterey Park, California using an iron bar to threaten and hit the store owner. He was convicted and sentenced to 2 years imprisonment.[2]

King is divorced and has three children.[2]

On September 9, 2010, it was confirmed that King is to marry Cynthia Kelley, who was a juror in the civil suit he brought against the City of Los Angeles.[3]


High speed chase

On the night of March 2, 1991, King and two passengers, Bryant Allen and Freddie Helms, were driving west on Foothill Freeway (Interstate 210) in the San Fernando Valley area of Los Angeles. Prior to driving on the Foothill Freeway, the three men had spent the night watching a basketball game and drinking at a friend’s house in Los Angeles.[4] After being tested 5 hours after the incident, King's blood-alcohol level was found to be just under the legal limit. This meant that his blood alcohol level can be estimated at approximately 0.19—nearly two and a half times the legal limit in California—when he was driving.[5] At 12:30 am, Officers Tim and Melanie Singer, a husband-and-wife team of the California Highway Patrol, spotted King’s car speeding. The Singers pursued King, and the subsequent freeway chase reached a speed of at least 117 miles per hour.[6][7] According to King’s own statements, he refused to pull the car over because a DUI would violate his parole for a previous robbery conviction.[8]

King exited the freeway, and the chase continued through residential streets at speeds allegedly ranging from 55 to 80 mph.[9][10] By this point, several police cars and a helicopter had joined in the pursuit. After approximately eight miles, officers cornered King’s car. The first five LAPD officers to arrive at the scene were Stacey Koon, Laurence Powell, Timothy Wind, Theodore Briseno, and Rolando Solano.


Officer Tim Singer ordered King and his two passengers to exit the vehicle and lie face down on the ground. The two passengers complied and were taken into custody without incident.[4] King initially remained in the car. When he finally did emerge, he acted bizarrely: giggling; patting the ground; and waving to the police helicopter overhead.[10] King then grabbed his buttocks. Officer Melanie Singer momentarily thought he was reaching for a gun.[11] She drew her gun and pointed it at King, ordering him to lie on the ground. King complied. Singer approached King with her gun drawn, preparing to make the arrest.

At this point, Sergeant Stacey Koon intervened and ordered Officer Melanie Singer to holster her weapon. LAPD officers are taught not to approach a suspect with a drawn gun, as there is a risk of the suspect gaining control of it if they get too close.[12] Koon then ordered the four other LAPD officers at the scene—Biseno, Powell, Solano, and Wind—to subdue and handcuff King in a manner called a "swarm," a technique that involves multiple officers grabbing a suspect with empty hands. As the officers attempted to do so, King physically resisted. King rose up, tossing Officers Powell and Briseno off his back. King then allegedly struck Officer Briseno in the chest.[13] Seeing this, Koon ordered all of the officers to fall back. The officers later testified that they believed King was under the influence of the dissociative drug phencyclidine (PCP).[14] King's toxicology results tested negative for PCP.[15]

Use of the Taser

Sergeant Koon then ordered the officers to "stand clear." King was standing and was not responding to Koon's commands. Koon then fired a Taser into King's back. King groaned; momentarily fell to his knees; then stood back up and turned towards Koon. Koon fired the Taser again, knocking King to the ground.[13] Powell's arrest report states that the Taser "temporarily halt[ed] [Defendant King's] attack," and Solano stated that the Taser appeared to affect King at first because "the suspect shook and yelled for almost five seconds".[16]

Beating with batons: events on the Holliday video

Screenshot of footage of King beaten by LAPD officers on March 3, 1991

As George Holliday's videotape begins, King is on the ground. He rises and moves toward Powell. (Solano termed it a "lunge," and said it was in the direction of Koon.)[16] At this time, taser wires can be seen coming from King's body. As King moves forward, Officer Powell then strikes King with his baton. The blow hits King's head, knocking him to the ground immediately.[17] Powell hits King several additional times with his baton. The videotape shows Briseno moving in to try and stop Powell from swinging, and Powell then backing up. (Koon reportedly yelled "that's enough.") King then rises to his knees; Powell and Wind continue to hit King with their batons while he is on the ground.[18]

Koon acknowledged that he ordered the baton blows, directing Powell and Wind to hit King with "power strokes." According to Koon, Powell and Wind used "bursts of power strokes, then backed off." The videotape shows King apparently continuing to try to get up. Koon orders the officers to "hit his joints, hit the wrists, hit his elbows, hit his knees, hit his ankles."[18] Finally, after 56 baton blows and six kicks, five or six officers swarm in and place King in both handcuffs and cordcuffs, restraining his arms and legs. King is dragged on his stomach to the side of the road to await arrival of a rescue ambulance.[18]

Unseen by those involved, George Holliday, a private citizen, caught the lengthy beating on video from his apartment near the intersection of Foothill Blvd and Osborne St. in Lake View Terrace. He contacted the police about a videotape of the incident but was dismissed. He then went to KTLA television with his videotape, which broadcast it on air in its entirety.[19] The footage became a media sensation. Portions of it were aired hundreds, if not thousands, of times around the world, and it "turned what would otherwise have been a violent, but soon forgotten, encounter between Los Angeles police and Rodney King into one of the most widely watched and discussed incidents of its kind."[20]

Post-arrest events

King was taken to Pacifica Hospital immediately after his arrest. He suffered a fractured facial bone, a broken right ankle, and numerous bruises and lacerations.[21] In a negligence claim filed with the city, King alleged he had suffered "11 skull fractures, permanent brain damage, broken [bones and teeth], kidney damage [and] emotional and physical trauma."[22] Blood and urine samples taken from King five hours after his arrest showed that he could be presumed intoxicated under California law. The tests also showed traces of marijuana (26 ng/ml), but no indication of PCP or any other illegal drug.[22] At Pacifica Hospital, where King was taken for initial treatment, nurses reported that the officers who accompanied King (including Wind) openly joked and bragged about the number of times King had been hit.[23]

Trial of the officers

The Los Angeles district attorney charged officers Koon, Powell, Briseno, and Wind with use of excessive force. While Sergeant Koon did not strike King and had only used the Taser, he was the supervisory officer at the scene and was charged for "willfully permitting and failing to take action to stop the unlawful assault." The initial judge was replaced, and the new judge changed the venue, as well as the jury pool, citing contamination of the jury pool by the media coverage. The new venue was a new courthouse in Simi Valley in neighboring Ventura County. The jury consisted of Ventura County residents—ten white, one Latino and one Asian. The prosecutor, Terry White, was African-American. On April 29, 1992, the jury acquitted three of the officers, but could not agree about one of the charges for Powell.[4]

Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley said, "the jury's verdict will not blind us to what we saw on that videotape. The men who beat Rodney King do not deserve to wear the uniform of the L.A.P.D."[24] President George H W Bush said, "viewed from outside the trial, it was hard to understand how the verdict could possibly square with the video. Those civil rights leaders with whom I met were stunned. And so was I and so was Barbara and so were my kids."[25]

Los Angeles riots and the aftermath

The news of acquittal triggered the Los Angeles riots of 1992. By the time the police, the U.S. Army, the Marines and the National Guard restored order, the casualties included 53 deaths, 2,383 injuries, more than 7,000 fires, damages to 3,100 businesses, and nearly $1 billion in financial losses. Smaller riots occurred in other cities such as San Francisco, Las Vegas in neighboring Nevada and as far east as Atlanta, Georgia. On May 1, 1992, the third day of the L.A. riots, King appeared in public before television news cameras to appeal for peace, asking:

People, I just want to say, you know, can we all get along? Can we get along? Can we stop making it, making it horrible for the older people and the kids?...It’s just not right. It’s not right. It’s not, it’s not going to change anything. We’ll, we’ll get our justice....They won the battle, but they haven't won the war....Please, we can get along here. We all can get along. I mean, we’re all stuck here for a while. Let’s try to work it out. Let’s try to beat it. Let’s try to beat it. Let’s try to work it out.[26]

Federal trial of officers

After the riots, the United States Department of Justice reinstated the investigation and obtained an indictment of violations of federal civil rights against the four officers. The federal trial focused more on the evidence as to the training of officers instead of just relying on the videotape of the incident. On March 9 of the 1993 trial, King took the witness stand and described to the jury the events as he remembered them.[27] The jury found Officer Laurence Powell and Sergeant Stacey Koon guilty, and they were subsequently sentenced to 30 months in prison, while Timothy Wind and Theodore Briseno were acquitted of all charges.[citation needed]

After the riots

The video of the beating is an example of inverse surveillance - that is, of citizens watching police. Several copwatch organizations were subsequently organized nationally to safeguard against police abuse, including an umbrella group, October 22 Coalition to Stop Police Brutality.[28]

King was awarded $3.8 million in a civil case and used some of the proceeds to start a hip hop music label, Straight Alta-Pazz Recording Company.[29]

Like his father, King is an alcoholic. In 1993, he entered an alcohol rehabilitation program and was placed on probation after crashing his vehicle into a block wall in downtown Los Angeles. In July 1995, he was arrested by Alhambra police, who alleged that he hit his wife with his car, knocking her to the ground. He was sentenced to 90 days in jail after being convicted of hit and run.[30] On August 27, 2003, King was arrested again for speeding and running a red light while under the influence of alcohol. He failed to yield to police officers and slammed his vehicle into a house, breaking his pelvis.[31] On November 29, 2007, while riding home on his bicycle, King was shot in the face, arms, and back with pellets from a shotgun. He reported that it was done by a man and a woman who demanded his bicycle and shot him when he rode away.[30] Police described the wounds as looking like they came from birdshot, and said King offered few details about the suspects. In May 2008 King checked into the Pasadena Recovery Center in Pasadena, California, which was filmed as part of the second season of Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew, which premiered in October 2008. Dr. Drew Pinsky, who runs the facility, showed concern for King's lifestyle and said that King would die unless his addiction was treated.[32] He also appeared on Sober House, a Celebrity Rehab spin-off focusing on a sober living environment, which aired in early 2009. Both shows filmed King's quest not only to achieve sobriety, but to reestablish a relationship with his family, which had been severely damaged due to his drinking.[33]

During his time on Celebrity Rehab and Sober House, King worked not only on his addiction, but on the lingering trauma of the beating. He and Dr. Pinsky retraced his path from the night of his beating, eventually reaching the spot where it happened, the site of the Children's Museum of Los Angeles.[34] King was asked to recount some of the details of the event. Among his recall however were several contradictory facts, such as that the officers shouted to him from their car during the chase that they intended to beat and kill him as soon as he stopped; that when he did stop, he immediately lay on the ground and surrendered, begging the approaching officers “You don’t have to do this!” as he lay there motionless; that the shots with the Taser were all while he was already prone and compliant; and that the officers repeatedly taunted him during the beating, such as saying they were going to kill him and he should run away.[35] However there is no evidence supporting any of these later claims. There is no mention of such events from his companions Allen and Helms (who were arrested without any sort of force from the same officers) nor any testimony provided by him in court consistent with this.

King won[36] a celebrity boxing match against ex-Chester City (Delaware County, Pennsylvania) police officer Simon Aouad on Friday, September 11, 2009 at the Ramada Philadelphia Airport in Essington, Pennsylvania.[37]

In 2009, King and other alumni of Celebrity Rehab appeared as panel speakers to a new group of addicts at the Pasadena Recovery Center, marking 11 months of sobriety for him. His appearance was aired in the third season episode "Triggers".[38]

On March 3, 2011, King was stopped by Los Angeles police for driving erratically. He was issued a citation for driving with an expired license.[39][40][41]

On July 12, 2011, King was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence.[42]


  1. ^ "Rodney King to marry juror from LA police beating case". BBC News. September 9, 2010. 
  2. ^ a b c Independent profile
  3. ^ Rodney King to marry juror from LA police beating case
  4. ^ a b c Linder, Douglas (December 2001). "The Rodney King Beating Trials". JURIST. Retrieved 2009-12-01. 
  5. ^ Cannon. Official Negligence: p. 39.
  6. ^
  7. ^ Koon v. United States 518 U.S. 81 (1996)
  8. ^ Cannon. Official Negligence: p. 43.
  9. ^ Stevenson, Richard W.; Egan, Timothy (March 18, 1991). "Seven Minutes in Los Angeles – A special report.; Videotaped Beating by Officers Puts Full Glare on Brutality Issue". The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-03-10. 
  10. ^ a b Whitman, David (May 23, 1993). "US News and World Report: May 23, 1993, The Untold Story of the LA Riot". U.S. News & World Report. Retrieved 2009-12-01. 
  11. ^ Cannon. Official Negligence: p. 27.
  12. ^ Cannon. Official Negligence: p. 28.
  13. ^ a b Cannon. Official Negligence: p. 31.
  14. ^ Cannon. Official Negligence:[page needed]
  15. ^ Cannon, Lou (March 16, 1993). "Prosecution Rests Case in Rodney King Beating Trial". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2009-12-01.
  16. ^ a b "Chapter 1: The Rodney King Beating". Report of the Independent Commission on the Los Angeles Police Department: p. 6. 1991.
  17. ^ "Chapter 1: The Rodney King Beating". Report of the Independent Commission on the Los Angeles Police Department: p. 7. 1991. "The blow hit King's head, and he went down immediately."
  18. ^ a b c "Chapter 1: The Rodney King Beating". Report of the Independent Commission on the Los Angeles Police Department: p. 7. 1991.
  19. ^ Michael Goldstein (February 19, 2006), The Other Beating, Los Angeles Times
  20. ^ [1]
  21. ^ Cannon. Official Negligence: p. 205.
  22. ^ a b "Chapter 1: The Rodney King Beating". Report of the Independent Commission on the Los Angeles Police Department: p. 8. 1991.
  23. ^ "Chapter 1: The Rodney King Beating". Report of the Independent Commission on the Los Angeles Police Department: p. 15. 1991.
  24. ^ Mydans, Seth (April 30, 1992). "The Police Verdict; Los Angeles Policemen Acquitted in Taped Beating". The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-12-01.
  25. ^ Fiske, John "Media matters: race and gender in U.S. politics" page 188, "Bush on LA, extracts from his speech to the nation, May 1st, 1992"
  26. ^
  27. ^ Mydans, Seth (March 10, 2003). "Rodney King Testifies on Beating: 'I Was Just Trying to Stay Alive'". The New York Times. Retrieved March 5, 2009. 
  28. ^ and the ACLU [2] draw connections between the event and the subsequent activities of many organizations.
  29. ^ "Flashback: Rodney King and the L.A riots". BBC News. July 10, 2002.
  30. ^ a b Reston, Maeve (November 30, 2007). "Rodney King shot while riding bike". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2009-12-01.
  31. ^ "Rodney King slams SUV into house, breaks pelvis". CNN. April 16, 2003. Archived from the original on 2007-12-11. 
  32. ^ TV Guide: page 8. June 23, 2008.
  33. ^ "Sober House Will Follow Celebrity Rehab Cast, Andy Dick in Sober Living". December 19, 2008.
  34. ^ Thompson, Elise. "Rodney King Forgives Officers Who Beat Him — LAist". Retrieved 30 December 2009. 
  35. ^ "Full Episode". Retrieved 30 December 2009. 
  36. ^ "Rodney King Fight Results". September 12, 2009.
  37. ^ Stamm, Dan (August 19, 2009). "No Plan to 'Get Along' When Rodney King Takes on Former Cop". NBC Philadelphia. Retrieved 2009-12-01.
  38. ^ Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew Episode 3.6 ("Triggers") VH1; February 11, 2010
  39. ^ "L.A. Now". Los Angeles Times. 
  40. ^
  41. ^ Hartley-Parkinson, Richard (March 4, 2011). "Rodney King pulled over by police almost 20 years to the day since his arrest and savage beating sparked riots in LA". Daily Mail (London). 
  42. ^ "CNN". CNN. 


External links

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  • Rodney King — Pour les articles homonymes, voir King. Rodney Glen King, né le 2 avril 1965 à Sacramento (Californie), est un citoyen afro américain qui, le 3 mars 1991, a été victime de violences policières suite à son interpellation par… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Rodney King — ➡ King (VI) * * * …   Universalium

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  • Rodney King beating — videotaped incident in which Rodney King (an African American) was severely beaten by white police officers after a lengthy car chase in Los Angeles (California, USA) …   English contemporary dictionary

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