25 Years Ago, Rodney King Beating Ushered in Era of Police Videos | NBC Southern California

25 Years Ago, Rodney King Beating Ushered in Era of Police Videos

King died at age 47 after drowning in his backyard pool in Rialto on June 17

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Twenty-five years ago, the Rodney King beating was brought into the national view by a home video. Patrick Healy reports for the NBC4 News at 5 and 6 p.m. on March 3, 2016. (Published Thursday, March 3, 2016)

    Twenty-five years ago, on the cusp of the home video era, a drunk and speeding Rodney King led officers on a pursuit that ended in front of George Holliday's Lake View Terrace apartment in northeast LA.

    Then living in a unit facing Foothill Boulevard, Holliday heard the commotion outside and got out something few owned in 1991: a home video camera.

    What he captured – LAPD officers brutally beating King, who was on parole for armed robbery, on the ground with batons – was broadcast worldwide and became a symbol of police brutality.

    Holliday has rarely spoken with the media, an exception being an interview with NBC last year.

    Rodney King Autopsy Finds Drugs, Alcohol in Body

    [LA] Rodney King Autopsy Finds Drugs, Alcohol in Body
    Rodney King's June 17 drowning death was ruled accidental Thursday. The 25-page coroner report notes that his death at age 47 was fueled by alcohol, marijuana and cocaine. Craig Fiegener reports from San Bernardino for the NBC4 News at 5 p.m. on Aug. 23, 2012. (Published Thursday, Aug. 23, 2012)

    "I thought, I should film this," Holliday recalled. "When I went out to the balcony, they were already hitting him."

    When four officers charged with felony assault on King were acquitted by a jury with no black members, the verdict sparked a riot that lasted for six days and brought U.S. military presence to patrol LA streets.

    "I was just wondering, what had happened? What led to this?" Holliday said.

    TV news broadcasts of the video triggered outrage, more when King left custody fractured and bruised in a wheelchair.

    Rodney King 911 Call: "He's at the Bottom of the Pool"

    [LA] Rodney King 911 Call:  "He's at the Bottom of the Pool"
    A 911 call reveals the moments after Rodney King's fiancée Cynthia Kelley found his body at the bottom of the pool at his Rialto home early Sunday morning. Rialto police tried to resuscitate King, but were unsuccessful. King was pronounced dead at a hospital about 45 minutes after the call was made. Robert Kovacik reports from the NBC4 newsroom for the NBC4 News at 5 p.m. on June 19, 2012. (Published Tuesday, June 19, 2012)

    "Watching it unfold, it was not so much about Rodney King as about all of us. We've all been in a place that was similar," said Melina Abdullah, a professor and Black Lives Matter organizer.

    An appointed commission called for reform.

    "I remember watching the first time and wondering what the hell was going on," said current Chief of Police Charlie Beck. "I think it was the beginning of a lot of self-examination."

    Training changed, among other things. The baton was shunted aside as the favored tool for getting compliance from a combative suspect to be handcuffed.

    Rodney King Laid to Rest in Hollywood Hills

    [LA] Rodney King Laid to Rest in Hollywood Hills
    Rodney King is remembered as a great father, a great friend, and a symbol of forgiveness. Two weeks after his death, King was laid to rest Saturday, following an emotional memorial service at the Hollywood Hills Forest Lawn. Angie Crouch reports for the NBC4 News at 6 p.m. on June 30, 2012. (Published Saturday, June 30, 2012)

    During the unrest, which left more than 50 people dead and caused more than $1 billion in property damage, King famously pleaded for peace by asking, "Can we all get along?"

    That confrontation on Foothill Blvd illuminated the value of video, though perhaps few envisioned how technology would make it so widely available to the public as today. Police as well have embraced video monitoring in police cars and increasingly on officers themselves.

    "Everybody I know is walking around with a camera and that has changed the world and changed expectations," Beck said.

    Holliday's video was largely responsible for getting King a nearly $4 million settlement form the city of LA. Holliday recalls King told him it did more than that.

    "He said, 'You saved my life,'" Holliday recalled.

    King never succeeded in overcoming his addiction issues, and drowned at age 47 in his Rialto home swimming pool four years ago. His death was ruled accidental in an autopsy by the San Bernardino County Coroner's Office, which also noted he had marijuana, cocaine and alcohol in his system.

    Even as the King case ushered in the modern era of the video camera watchdog, it also demonstrated that even when it's on video, not everybody sees the same thing.