What can I say about the death of Rodney King at age 47 but R.I.P., accidental and imperfect icon. I wish I could say that his death represents the end of an era, but with the Trayvon Martin case, the Darius Simmons case (not his murder as much as how the police treated the family while his body lay on the sidewalk) and other similar cases, I know any announcement of an end to police officers brutalizing black people or trampling their rights would be a leap. (And yes, I know that all police officers are not racist or dishonest; I know that we have criminals in the black community who leave more death and destruction in their wake than police departments; and I know that Rodney King was no angel, but why is it that black people have to be angels in order to receive the same protections of their rights as others in America?)
For readers too young to recall King's significance, he was the black man who became a symbol for racially-motivated police brutality after four white police officers were caught on camera beating him in 1991. King almost died from the blows; doctors operated for at least five hours. Despite the video evidence, hospital records, and pictures of King's pummeled face, jurors acquitted the officers, and the incredible verdict set off a fury of rioting in Los Angeles.
CNN reports today that King drowned:
"Police in Rialto, California, received a 911 call from King's fiancee, Cynthia Kelly, about 5:25 a.m., said Capt. Randy DeAnda. Responding officers found King at the bottom of the pool, removed him and attempted to revive him. He was pronounced dead at a local hospital, DeAnda said.In 1991, an amateur videographer recorded King's beating, and per CNN, Milton Grimes (King's attorney) said then, "We finally caught the Loch Ness Monster with a camcorder."
There were no preliminary signs of foul play, he said, and no obvious injuries on King's body. Police are conducting a drowning investigation, DeAnda said, and King's body would be autopsied."
That was how the beating on video struck many African Americans, as finally we have proof that police officers abuse their powers in the black community. So, when the jury found the officers not guilty, all hell broke loose.