Racial tensions were brewing across the nation in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s. In Los Angeles, where L.A.’s Black population was often the victim of racial profiling by the LAPD, things were particularly heated.
With tensions already high, Rodney King, born April 2, 1965, became an involuntary symbol of the struggle when a brutal beating by the police was caught on tape on March 3, 1991.
After a three-month trial, the four police officers responsible for beating King were acquitted by a predominantly white jury, inciting the 1992 L.A. riots.
The acquittal ignited uproar in South Central Los Angeles, sparking the largest riots the nation had seen since the 1960s. The six-day period of uprising left 50 people dead, more than 2,000 injured, 9,500 arrested for rioting, looting and arson and more than $1 billion in damages.
The turmoil prompted King to address the public with a plea for unity: "People, I just want to say, Can't we all get along? Can't we all get along?"
Eventually the United States Department of Justice filed a federal civil suit against the officers, and King was awarded $3.8 million in a civil trial for the injuries he sustained.
A little more than a decade after the riots, King continued to have brushes with the law and battled his addiction to alcohol and PCP. He was arrested a host of times between 1991 and 2001.
He told CNN on the 20-year anniversary of the L.A. riots that he'd forgiven the officers who beat him: "Yes, I have forgiven them because I have been forgiven so many times. My country's been good to me, and I've done some things that wasn't pleasant in my lifetime, and I've been forgiven for that."
On June 17, 2012, King was found dead at the bottom of his Rialto, California, pool. He was 47.
Follow Dominique Zonyéé on Twitter: @DominiqueZonyee.
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(Photo: AP Photo/Matt Sayles)