© 2024 WGLT
A public service of Illinois State University
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

15 Years Later, Rodney King Looks Back

Fifteen years ago Friday, grainy video images were broadcast showing white Los Angeles police officers beating Rodney King during a traffic stop. King and Milton Grimes, his attorney in the days after the attack, look back on that night and the days that followed.

King's saga began on March 3, 1991, when he was pulled over for driving recklessly in Lake View Terrace, a residential suburb of Los Angeles. King reportedly resisted arrest and charged at one of the police officers. An amateur videotape captured the end of the arrest, with three officers holding King down on the ground and beating him.

The video sparked a nationwide uproar when it was broadcast, and four LAPD officers -- Laurence Powell, Theodore Briseno, Timothy Wind and Sgt. Stacey Koon -- were indicted two weeks later for assault and filing false police reports.

More than a year later, three of the officers were acquitted and the jury couldn't agree on a verdict for the fourth. That verdict triggered a massive riot amid accusations the beating was racially motivated and the acquittals just another example of pervasive racial bias.

Predominantly black areas of the city erupted in flames. The widespread looting and arson left hundreds of buildings severely damaged or destroyed. The final toll, after nearly a week of lawlessness: 55 dead, more than 8,000 arrested and an estimated $1 billion in damage.

King himself appeared at a news conference at the height of the violence to plead for peace, saying "Can we get along here? Can we all get along?"

Since his arrest in 1991, King has been arrested several times for various other offenses. He admits he is still struggling with life. "I'm recovering... it's the healing part, you know?" He adds that the 1991 beating changed his life -- "It made me feel like I was back in slavery days."

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.