The man who inadvertently helped bring you the L.A. riots of 1992 was found dead this morning, according to TMZ:
Rodney King — the man who was at the center of the infamous Los Angeles riots — was found dead this morning in Rialito, CA. He was 47.
According to our sources, King’s fiancée found him dead at the bottom of a pool.
Law enforcement sources tell TMZ they responded to a call at 5:25 AM PT. We’re told they physically removed King from the pool and attempted CPR.
Our sources say he was pronounced dead at 6:11 AM.
Law enforcement sources say Rialto PD will open a drowning investigation, but so far there are no signs of foul play.
King’s passing comes more than 20 years after he was beaten by L.A. police in 1991 following a high-speed chase. The incident, including startling images of King trying to crawl away from police, was caught on video, and the acquittal of the officers involved sparked the race riots that erupted in Los Angeles the following year.
Thousands were injured and 53 people died throughout the riot, which caused about $1 billion in property damage and inspired a national dialogue about racially-motivated police brutality.
“People, I just want to say, can we all get along?” King said on the third day of rioting after days of seclusion, according to CNN. “Can we get along?”
King was awarded $3.8 million in a civil case, but was left with permanent brain damage. He was arrested last year for DUI but told PEOPLE in April that he was doing well and was no longer drinking “as much as I used to.”
Though as TMZ adds in an update to their story, “According to our sources, King’s fiancée is telling friends King had been drinking and smoked weed in the hours before his death.”
At Hot Air, Howard Portney provides a flashback to King’s 15 minutes of infamy:
King achieved a modicum of fame in 1991, when a bystander videotaped his beatdown by Los Angeles police who had stopped him for speeding after a high-speed chase.
Four LAPD officers were tried in on charges of using excessive force. Three were acquitted and the jury failed to reach a verdict for the fourth. The announcement of the acquittals in April of 1992 sparked six days of bloody rioting in South Central Los Angeles and also launched King’s second 15 minutes of fame, when he appeared on camera and famously urged, “Can’t we all just get along?”
The answer was an unequivocal no. By the time the LA Police Department and National Guard had managed to restore order, 53 people lay dead, thousands more were injured, and property damages—mostly from looting and arson—exceeded $1 billion.
In 1993, the U.S. Justice Department reopened the investigation of the King beating and obtained an indictment of violations of federal civil rights against the four officers. A guilty verdict was returned and two of the officers who had taken part in the assault were each sentenced to 32 months in prison.
The following year, King filed a civil suit against the City of Los Angeles and received $3.8 million in damages. In the interim period, he was arrested twice, once for hit and run and a second time for speeding while intoxicated.
“It’s one thing to waste your life,” Kathy Shaidle writes in response to King’s death, “It’s another to cost your community at least a billion dollars and get other people maimed and killed in the process.”