Family, friends remember Rodney King at funeral
(CNN) — Friends and family of Rodney King gathered in Los Angeles to bid final farewell to the man whose 1991 beating by the city’s police sparked riots after the acquittal of the four officers involved.
King was found dead in his swimming pool at his Rialto, California, home almost two weeks ago. He was 47.
“I’m extremely proud. Still, today, I can be up here and be sad, but I could have lost you when I was 6 so I’m thankful and I’m grateful. I wouldn’t have had my sister if he would have died. I’m grateful for all of you for coming to show your support,” King’s daughter, Dene, said during the service.
A spray of flowers perched atop King’s black casket, which was set next to a smiling photograph of him. Music played over a sideshow of family photographs.
Rialto police received a 911 call from King’s fiancee, Cynthia Kelly, about 5:25 a.m. on June 17, according to Capt. Randy De Anda.
Responding officers found King at the bottom of the pool, removed him and performed cardiopulmonary resuscitation until paramedics arrived. He was pronounced dead at a local hospital, police said.
A preliminary autopsy report will not be released, coroner spokeswoman Jody Miller said. The coroner will wait until a full report based on the toxicology exam findings is available in six to eight weeks, Miller said.
There were no preliminary signs of foul play and no obvious injuries on King’s body, De Anda said. Police are conducting a drowning investigation.
King’s beating after a high-speed car chase and its aftermath forever changed Los Angeles, its police department and the dialogue on race in America.
The video that captured the beating shows King cowering on the ground and attempting to crawl away as he is surrounded by a crowd of police officers. Four of them used their nightsticks to strike him.
King was beaten nearly to death. Three surgeons operated on him for five hours.
The video appeared on national television two days later, focusing attention on the issue of racially-motivated police brutality.
Four LAPD officers — Theodore Briseno, Laurence Powell, Timothy Wind and Sgt. Stacey Koon — were indicted on charges of assault with a deadly weapon and excessive use of force by a police officer.
But following a three-month trial in the predominantly white Los Angeles suburb of Simi Valley, three of the officers were acquitted of all charges. The jury, which had no black members, deadlocked on one charge of excessive force against Powell, and a mistrial was declared on that charge.
African-Americans in Los Angeles exploded in outrage. Rioters ran through the streets — looting businesses, torching buildings and attacking those who were in the wrong place at the wrong time. The violence led to more than 50 deaths and $1 billion in property damage.
On the third day of rioting, King emerged from seclusion to make a plea: “People, I just want to say, can we all get along? Can we get along?”
Nearly a year later, the four officers stood trial in federal court on civil rights charges. Two African-Americans were picked for the jury, and King testified. Koon and Powell were found guilty and sentenced to 30 months in prison. Briseno and Wind were acquitted.
King also sued the city of Los Angeles, and was awarded $3.8 million in damages.
In later years, King had several more run-ins with the law, including a 90-day jail stint in 1996 for a hit-and-run involving his wife at the time. On the 20th anniversary of the beating in 2011, he was pulled over and ticketed for a minor traffic violation.
King said last year on the anniversary that he has forgiven the officers who beat him.
“Yes, I’ve forgiven them, because I’ve been forgiven many times,” he said. “My country’s been good to me … This country is my house, it’s the only home I know, so I have to be able to forgive — for the future, for the younger generation coming behind me so … they can understand it and if a situation like that happened again, they could deal with it a lot easier.”