Los Angeles (CNN) — Rodney King, whose beating by Los Angeles police in 1991 was caught on camera and sparked riots after the acquittal of the four officers involved, was found dead in his swimming pool Sunday, authorities and his fiancee said. He was 47.
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.
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.
"His fiancee heard him in the rear yard," he said, and found King in the pool when she went outside.
Kelly was a juror in King’s lawsuit against the city of Los Angeles in 1994.
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.
"Rodney King was a symbol of civil rights and he represented the anti-police brutality and anti-racial profiling movement of our time," the Rev. Al Sharpton said in a statement. "It was his beating that made America focus on the presence of profiling and police misconduct."
King was 25 and on parole after a robbery conviction in March 1991. In an interview in 2011, he recalled he had been drinking and was headed home from a friend’s house when he saw a police car following him and panicked, thinking he would be sent back to prison. So he attempted to flee.
"I had a job to go to that Monday, and I knew I was on parole, and I knew I wasn’t supposed to be drinking, and I’m like ‘Oh, my God,’" he told CNN.
He realized he couldn’t outrun the police, but looked for a public place to stop. "I saw all those apartments over there, so I said, ‘I’m gonna stop right there,’" he said. "’If it goes down, somebody will see it.’"
An amateur cameraman caught the scene as four white police officers struck King more than 50 times with their wooden batons and used a stun gun on him.
King said as the officers beat him, they yelled, "We are going to kill you, n***er," although the officers denied using racial slurs.
The video 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 of the beating appeared on national television two days later, focusing attention on the issue of racially-motivated police brutality.
"We finally caught the Loch Ness Monster with a camcorder," King attorney Milton Grimes said. [MORE]