My heart is very heavy in learning this news today.
TMZ announced this morning that Rodney King, the man whose 1991 beating at the hands of the LAPD eventually led to the LA Riots, has been found dead by his fiancee:
According to our sources, King’s fiancée found him dead at the bottom of a pool.
Law enforcement sources tell TMZ they responded to a call at 5:25 AM PT. We’re told they physically removed King from the pool and attempted CPR.
Rodney King quickly became an icon: First as a representative for all the voiceless, faceless people who had been victims of police brutality in the many years before. And then again as he pleaded “Can’t we all just get along?” after the riots broke out and lives were lost.
It was the beginning of a new era in media. We now take for granted that someone will always be there with a camera to document what happens on our cities’ streets. But in 1991, so many cases of police brutality went undocumented, and victims simply weren’t believed or given any voice.
As King says in the video above, it was lucky someone videotaped the cops that day. For those of us living protected lives away from the city streets of South Central LA—and neighborhoods just like it across the nation—it was a wake-up call. Police brutality was (and still is) very, very real.
A few years ago, King appeared on VH1′s Celebrity Rehab. For some reason, I watched that season of Celebrity Rehab (which is the type of show I usually malign), very much in part to Rodney King. He seemed to be a sweet, compelling, good-hearted man. He was hopeful for the state of race relations in America. It’s odd the way reality television makes us feel like we know somebody.
Rodney King’s last interview with TMZ about the current state of race relations appears above. In it, King says of the Trayvon Martin case, “I’m hoping he gets justice for his family… I’m hoping that everything will turn out okay. This is America, so I’m sure it will.”
Rest in Peace, Mr. King.
How do you think that Rodney King changed American history?