Mary Harris, Del Armijo, Jay Yoo
Titus Murphy says something inside him told him to get up as he was watching the violence of the LA Riots unfold on television. After a brick was thrown at truck driver Reginald Denny’s head, Murphy ran to the scene and, with the help of three other strangers, managed to take the badly-injured Denny to the hospital – in part due to Murphy’s pretending he was a rioter to scare off potential attackers. Chuck Henry reports for the NBC4 News at 5 p.m. on April 23, 2012.
It is one of the most unforgettable and horrifying images from the LA riots: a truck driver is randomly pulled from his truck and beaten nearly to death.
Reginald Denny had been driving for Transit Mixed Concrete Co. on April 29, 1992, when he arrived at the crossroads of the mayhem at Florence and Normandie.
The beating was broadcast live on television. Four men pummeled Denny, at one point hurling a brick at his head. Moments later, Denny is on his knees, drenched in his own blood and struggling to get up, when a rioter runs over and kicks him in the head.
By the end of the attack, Denny’s skull was busted into more than 90 pieces.
But how Reginald Denny was saved and how he arrived at the hospital is another legacy from the riots – one of human courage and kindness.
Four strangers ran into the chaos, into certain danger, to rescue a man they didn’t even know.
Titus Murphy was watching the violence unfold on TV a few blocks away. After the brick was thrown at Denny, Murphy could no longer just watch.
"Something inside me said, 'Get up; you have to do something," Murphy said.
When Murphy and his girlfriend Terri Barnett arrived at Denny’s truck, Lei Yuille was already in the cab comforting Denny.
Murphy then found himself facing off with a large stranger on a day when every stranger posed a threat. He said they were looking at each other through the truck window.
"We both asked each other, 'What are you going to do?' He goes, 'What are you going to do?' And I say, 'What are you going to do?'" Murphy said.
At first, Murphy thought the man could be a rioter who had come to "finish off" Denny. He thought he may have to "take him on" and "if I did that, whatever I had to do I had to do it very fast."
Then came a moment of relief for Murphy.
"He said to me at that moment that he was a truck driver. I was like cool," he said.
That man was Bobby Green, the fourth person that came to help Denny that day.
Murphy said the four never introduced themselves, never discussed a game plan. They just went into action.
"It was like we were meant to do that. It’s like we were on a mission. Everything just fell in place, just like it was supposed to," Murphy said.
The windshield of Denny’s truck was shattered, so Murphy hung off the side of the truck and directed Green as he drove the 80,000 pound truck three long miles to Daniel Freeman Hospital.
"The journey seemed like it took forever," Murphy said.
Murphy said he was only concerned about Denny's welfare. The victim was inside the truck, bleeding profusely.
Murphy said he did have one moment when he was scared: a car load of people carrying guns and sticks approached. He worried that they would go after Denny, so he made a strategic decision to act like a rioter himself.
He said he began beating on the hood of the truck "claiming" it as his own, so that the rioters would think "he’s got that" and would go find somewhere else to be destructive.
Shortly after, Murphy saw a patrol car and several officers. He had a moment of hope that help had finally arrived. Murphy said he made eye contact with the officers, and they just continued on.
“We were on our own," he said.
Murphy now lives in Escondido where his life is all about his wife and four kids. They are a musical family -- his oldest son Keavin is an accomplished keyboardist and his only daughter Tatiana is quick to share a song.
They are a close family and Murphy beams in their presence. The family has plans to open a bakery.
Murphy’s wife Thelma didn’t know him in 1992, but his actions do not surprise her. She said he is still quick to help others.
"He doesn't consider himself as a hero ... but he to me is like an angel," Thelma said of her husband.
The fact that Denny was white didn’t matter to Murphy then and it doesn’t matter now. All he saw was someone in need – and despite the incredible risk – he never doubted his decision to get involved.
"I’d do it again anytime. If it happens out here, I’ll do the same thing," Murphy said. "It’s just the right thing to do."
The passage of time has only re-enforced Murphy’s belief that it is too easy, even reckless, to make the riots just about race.
He believes people should be judged on their actions –whether good or bad – and not on color.
"There’s only one race and that’s the human race," Murphy said. "All this other stuff we’re doing, we’re just wasting our valuable time."