Cause of Death Deferred in Rodney King Autopsy

Rodney King's body was found Sunday in the pool of his Rialto home

By Jonathan Lloyd and Olsen Ebright
|  Monday, Jun 18, 2012  |  Updated 7:24 PM PDT
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Rodney King, the man whose beating by Los Angeles police officers sparked the 1992 riots after officers' acquittal, died early Sunday, June 17, at his Rialto home, where he found at the bottom of his swimming pool. Officer David Shepherd says it will likely be six to eight weeks before a cause of death can be determined pending additional toxicological tests. Craig Fiegener reports from Rialto Police headquarters in Rialto for the NBC4 News at 5 p.m. on June 18, 2012.

Craig Fiegener

Rodney King, the man whose beating by Los Angeles police officers sparked the 1992 riots after officers' acquittal, died early Sunday, June 17, at his Rialto home, where he found at the bottom of his swimming pool. Officer David Shepherd says it will likely be six to eight weeks before a cause of death can be determined pending additional toxicological tests. Craig Fiegener reports from Rialto Police headquarters in Rialto for the NBC4 News at 5 p.m. on June 18, 2012.

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Coroner's officials completed their autopsy of Rodney King on Monday, although an official cause of death was deferred pending additional toxicological tests, according to the San Bernardino County Sheriff-Coroner Department.

"There will be no final ruling as to the cause and manner of death until the requested test results have been received and reviewed in context with the autopsy findings," according to the coroner's office.

The results are expected within four to six weeks.

King's fiancée found his body at about 5:30 a.m. Sunday. He was pronounced dead at a hospital.

Authorities said there are no signs of foul play.

"He is part of history, we will remember him always, his good and bad," said Verdina Knox, who lives down the street from King.

Mourners gathered at Leimert Park Monday evening for a community tribute to the man whose 1991 beating set off a chain of events that led to the deadly riots a year later after police officers involved in the traffic stop were acquitted. The tribute was organized by Project Islamic Hope.

His death at age 47 is being treated as an apparent drowning.

Prior to Monday's update from the coroner, Capt. Randy De Anda had said autopsy results would be needed to determine whether drugs or alcohol were a factor.

King was only in the water three to four minutes between the time his fiancée called 911 and when officers pulled him from the water, De Anda said. King was taken to a nearby hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 6:11 a.m. Sunday.

"My sister said she heard the ambulances coming around 5:30 in the morning.  When I got home I saw everything, I didn't know he died until I got in the house," Knox said.

King's death comes 20 years after he was thrust into the spotlight at the end of a 1991 pursuit on a Southern California freeway. King was surrounded and beaten by officers -- an event videotaped by George Holliday, whose residence looked out to the freeway.

Three officers were acquitted. One officer's case was declared a mistrial.

King was awarded $3.8 million in a civil case, but that was spent on a record label and other failed ventures. He resurfaced on the show "Celebrity Rehab" and sparred in boxing matches.

He recently finished a book, "The Riot Within: From Rebellion to Redemption." In the book, King wrote about watching as Los Angeles was torn apart.

One of the most violent images of the riots was the beating of trucker Reginald Denny. King told NBC4 the Denny attack triggered memories of his own beating.

"I could feel that brick hit his head," King said. "I could hear it, and I could also feel it. I said to myself, 'Oh, my God.'"

Fifty-three people were killed in the LA riots, during which King asked during a news conference, "Can we all just get along?"

"I want to be remembered as the one who always tried to keep it together," King told NBC4 in his April 2012 interview.

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