Rodney King Reflects on an Up-Down Life Since Riot

By: John Rogers, Associated Press
By: John Rogers, Associated Press

Los Angeles, CA (AP) - We saw his face a bloody, pulpy mess. And in 1992, when the four Los Angeles Police officers who beat him after a traffic stop were acquitted, it touched off anger that affected an entire generation. Now, 20 years later, this is the face of Rodney King, and this is what has happened to him in the interim.

He's been a record company executive and a reality TV star among many other things.

To millions of Americans, though, he will always be either a victim of one of the most horrific cases of police brutality ever videotaped or just a hooligan who didn't stop when police attempted to pull him over.

He's indisputably the black motorist whose beating on a darkened LA street led to one of the worst race riots in American history.

It's been an up-and-down ride for King since he went on television at the height of those riots and pleaded in a quavering voice, "Can we all get along?"

He's been arrested numerous times, mostly for alcohol-related crimes. In a recent interview with The Associated Press he said, "I still sip, I don't get drunk."

He has been to a number of rehab programs, he said, including the 2008 appearance on "Dr. Drew" Pinsky's "Celebrity Rehab" program.

Still, he was arrested again just last year for driving under the influence.

It was his fear of being stopped for drunken driving on March 3, 1991, King said, that initially led him to try to evade police who attempted to pull him over for speeding.

After he did stop, four LA police officers hit him more than 50 times with their batons, kicked him and shot him with stun guns. A man who had quietly stepped outside his home to observe the commotion videotaped most of it and turned a copy over to a local TV station.

After a jury with no black members acquitted the officers on April 29, 1992, the city's black community exploded in rage. Fifty-five people died, more than 2,000 were injured over three days.

King received a $3.8 million settlement from the city, but said he lost most it to bad investments, among them a hip-hop record label he founded that quickly went broke.

He makes money these days taking part in events like celebrity boxing matches. He's also promoting his just-published memoir, "The Riot Within: My Journey From Rebellion to Redemption."

A tall, physically imposing man who is disarmingly friendly, self-effacing and soft-spoken, King, 47, maintains he is happy.

"America's been good to me after I paid the price and stayed alive through it all," he says. "This part of my life is the easy part now."

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  • by Anonymous on Apr 25, 2012 at 09:35 PM
    Why does the media not mention the beating of Matthew Owens last week?
  • by WhiteWoman Location: Tallahassee on Apr 25, 2012 at 05:37 AM
    Yes, let's keep stirring the pot of racisim so the African decendants can continue to scream racisim. Good job Associated Press and Tallahassee Democrat.
    • reply
      by TheDuke on Apr 25, 2012 at 11:47 AM in reply to WhiteWoman
      You're an ignorant white woman. No one needs to stir any pot to keep racism going, people like you do a good enough job. To Surprise, what about the white guy that was dragged, once the riot began, all bets were off. He could've been black and that same thing might've happened to him. If the cops hadn't beat and innocent motorist and then the lily-white jurors hadn't acquited the murdering bast'ds, then we wouldn't have had a riot. It a continuation of your centuries old behavior here in Amerikkka.
      • reply
        by TallyTrashTalks2 on Apr 25, 2012 at 05:03 PM in reply to TheDuke
        Well..Rodney King's first mistake was drinking and running from the police. But,that was no excuse for police beating him by any means, but he himself started that unfortunate chain of events. He's had 20 years to clean up his act, but he has chosen not to. People who take to riots in the streets in the name of seeking justice, then rob, loot and destroy their own neighborhoods are just as much to blame for racism still existing. It's hard to respect ignorance of any color.
      • reply
        by Kate on Apr 26, 2012 at 05:12 AM in reply to TheDuke
        Ummm... what??? The Duke: Quit attacking people. Racism goes both ways and you obviously have plenty of ignorance and prejudice yourself. Not all white people descend from the atrocities of slavery. Many white people fought alongside blacks to have their rights restored and, unfortunately, white people were the only ones at the time to be able to vote to make that happen. Please don't continue the hate.
  • by Surprise Location: leon county on Apr 25, 2012 at 03:43 AM
    What about the white man that was dragged out of his truck and hit with that concrete block while others kicked him what about him?
  • by Surprise Location: leon county on Apr 25, 2012 at 03:43 AM
    What about the white man that was dragged out of his truck and hit with that concrete block while others kicked him what about him?
  • by Larry on Apr 25, 2012 at 02:13 AM
    Why are we checking back in with this turd? He was nothing before the beating, and he's nothing now. What a waste of ink.
    • reply
      by TheDuke on Apr 25, 2012 at 11:48 AM in reply to Larry
      So are you, just a wasted piece of red neck.
  • by Anon on Apr 25, 2012 at 12:00 AM
    I'm suprised Obama hasn't offered him a cabinet position.
  • by Moe Location: Tally on Apr 24, 2012 at 07:39 PM
    Concerning this a warning or marching orders from the associated press?
    • reply
      by AL on Apr 24, 2012 at 09:04 PM in reply to Moe
      lucky there is no marching in Mobile
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