Rodney King

Rodney King
Rodney King
Credit: Justin Hoch | JHoch Photography | jhoch.com, with permission

Rodney Glen King was a 25-year-old Black man whose brutal beating by several officers from the Los Angeles Police Department after a high-speed chase, was caught on video.

At a press conference announcing the 14 officers involved would be disciplined, and three would face criminal charges, Los Angeles police chief said: "We believe the officers used excessive force taking him into custody. In our review, we find that officers struck him with batons between 53 and 56 times."

Rodney was taken to Pacifica Hospital after his arrest, where he was found to have suffered a fractured facial bone, a broken right ankle and multiple bruises and lacerations. Pacifica Hospital nurses reported that the officers who accompanied Rodney openly joked and bragged about the number of times they had hit him.

No charges were filed against Rodney King. On his release, he spoke to reporters from his wheelchair, with his injuries evident: a broken right leg in a cast, his face badly cut and swollen, bruises on his body, and a burn area to his chest where he had been jolted with a 50,000-volt stun gun. Rodney described how he had knelt, spread his hands out, and slowly tried to move so as not to make any “stupid move,” while being hit across the face by a baton and shocked. He said he was scared for his life as they drew down on him.

Four out of the nine officers involved were charged with excessive force, but three officers were acquitted, and the jury failed to reach a verdict for one officer. This acquittal led to the public outrage that gave rise to the 1992 Los Angeles riots, which lasted six days and left 63 people dead and 2,383 more injured.

During the riots, on May 1, 1992, Rodney King made a television appearance pleading for an end to the riots. “I just want to say – you know – can we all get along? Can we, can we get along? Can we stop making it horrible for the older people and the kids?”

In 1994 Rodney King filed a civil lawsuit. In a negligence claim filed with the city, Rodney alleged he had suffered 11 skull fractures, permanent brain damage, broken bones and teeth, kidney failure and emotional and physical trauma. The jury found the city of Los Angeles liable and awarded Rodney King $3.8 million in damages as well as $1.7 million in attorney's fees.