Twenty Years Later, Rodney King Still Has Nightmares

King reflects on police beating that ultimately sparked a race riot.

Posted: 03/04/2011 10:59 AM EST
Rodney King

In this March 3, 1991, video, a group of police officers are seen beating Rodney King with nightsticks and kicking him as other officers look on. (AP Photo/George Holliday/Courtesy of KTLA Los Angeles, File)


It has been 20 years since the police beating of Rodney King in Los Angeles, and he says that two decades later, he still has nightmares about that fateful evening.

Sometimes he even hears the voices of police officers from that night shouting, "Get down, get down, you effing n***er," he said in an interview with CNN set to air tonight.

On March 2, 1991, King and two passengers, Bryant Allen and Freddie Helms, were driving in the San Fernando Valley area of Los Angeles after an evening of drinking. Police spotted King speeding and pursued him. The subsequent freeway chase reached speeds of at least 117 miles per hour. King later said that he didn’t pull over because a DUI would've violated his parole for a previous robbery conviction.

King exited the freeway and then led the police on a chase through residential neighborhoods at speeds allegedly ranging from 55 to 80 mph. When King finally pulled over, the first five LAPD officers to arrive at the scene were Stacey Koon, Laurence Powell, Timothy Wind, Theodore Briseno and Rolando Solano.

We all know what happened next: Four of the officers beat King more than 50 times with their batons and shocked him with an electric stun gun—all while being videotaped—on what was now March 3. The officers were put on trial for assault and later acquitted by an all-white jury. The verdict sparked a race riot in Los Angeles that spanned six days, left 55 people dead and more than 2,000 hurt, and caused property damage in excess of $1 billion.

Despite all the pain that he endured, King said he is able to forgive and that he has no animosity toward the police officers who assaulted him.

Separately, on Tuesday, King was cited for driving with a suspended license after police in Arcadia, California, received a complaint about a man driving recklessly in a green Mitsubishi, TMZ reports.