“The men who beat Rodney King do not deserve to wear the uniform of the LAPD.”
On 3 March 1991 Rodney King, a black building site labourer, was speeding on his way home when four Los Angeles policemen — Laurence Powell, Timothy Wind, Theodore Briseno and Sergeant Stacey Koon — stopped him. They then administered a severe beating to King. The policemen later claimed that they believed that King was under the influence of phencyclidine (PCP). Later tests showed that his system was clear.
It was unfortunate for the policemen that George Holliday, who lived nearby, was videotaping the entire incident which ended up on television. The four policemen were charged with using excessive force but only Powell was convicted on 29 April 1992 when the jury, consisting of ten whites, one Asian and one Latino, delivered their verdict. Tom Bradley, the mayor of Los Angeles, was not satisfied with the result, saying, “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 LAPD.”
Lakeview Terrace, California, USA
Sunday 3 March 1991
When news of the acquittal broke, Los Angeles was hit by a series of riots. It took the combined efforts of the police, army, marines and National Guard to restore order in the city, but not before 53 people were killed, 2,383 injured, 7,000 fires started and 3,100 firms damaged. Losses were estimated at almost 1 billion pounds. On the third day of the rioting, 1 May 1992, King appeared on television to appeal for calm. “It’s not right… it’s not going to change anything. We’ll get our justice… 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.”
New charges were filed against the police and at a new trial Officer Powell and Sergeant Stacey Koon were found guilty while Timothy Wind and Theodore Briseno were acquitted of all charges. Powell and Koon were sentenced to 30 months in prison. King was awarded $3.8 million in a civil case. In May 1991 he was arrested on suspicion of trying to run over a policeman who had discovered him with a Hollywood transvestite prostitute.
Two years later, he was admitted to rehabilitation for alcoholism. In July 1995 he was convicted of a hit-and-run assault on his wife and jailed for 90 days. On 27 August 2003 he was again arrested for speeding and crashed his car into a house, breaking his pelvis.