BY Mike O’Sullivan – LOS ANGELES – Rodney King, whose beating by police sparked some of the worst urban unrest in U.S. history, died Sunday in an apparent drowning at his home near Los Angeles.
Shocked family members gathered at King’s home in the Los Angeles suburb of Rialto, where his fiancee found him at the bottom of a swimming pool. Authorities say there are no signs of foul play.
This year is the 20th anniversary of riots that shook Los Angeles, after the acquittal of three police officers — and the mistrial of a fourth officer — who were videotaped beating King following a road chase.
Six days of riots after the verdict left 53 people dead, thousands injured and $1 billion in property damage.
A shaken Rodney King appealed for peace. “I just want to say can we all get along? Can we get along? Can we stop making it horrible for the older people and the kids?,” he said.
King found himself uncomfortably the center of attention. Troubled with alcohol and drug abuse, he had more brushes with the law, but wrote a book and sometimes spoke in public and would come to grips with his unexpected fame.
On the 20th anniversary of the riots, he reflected on his life in an interview with Los Angeles television station KABC.
“I have no regrets. I’ve made some childish moves in life, but I’ve learned from a lot of them. I’ve learned from all of my mistakes. I’m a work in process,” King said.
Much of south Los Angeles, devastated in the 1992 riots, has been rebuilt. But unemployment remains high in the inner city and minority residents are still coping with gang crime and other social problems.
King received a settlement of nearly $4 million in a civil lawsuit. Much of it went to legal fees, but he bought a modest home in the suburbs, where he was found in the swimming pool early Sunday.