Rodney King, a man best known for being beaten up by Los Angeles police and triggering the worst urban riots in a generation, died overnight in an apparent drowning. He was 47.
King's fiancee found him in a swimming pool at his home at 5:25 a.m. today, Rialto police Capt. Randy DeAnda said.
"There were no obvious signs of trauma,'' the officer said. "Rialto police are conducting a drowning investigation at this time.''
King had apparently spoken with his fiancee in the minutes before she discovered him lifeless in the pool behind their modest tract house in Rialto, 55 miles east of Los Angeles, police said. Rialto firefighters rushed King to Arrowhead Regional Medical Center in Colton, where he was pronounced dead at 6:11.
In an interview last April, King told the BBC that he was engaged to marry Cynthia Kelley, whom he met as she sat as a juror in the civil lawsuit that awarded King $3.8 million for his injuries at the hands of four Los Angeles police officers in 1991.
King was catapulted to worldwide fame in when an amateur video photographer named George Holliday heard police helicopters whirling over his apartment, and picked up his new video camera to record the blurry images of four LAPD officers kicking a motorist who had been pulled from his car.
Images telecast around the world sparked a tinderbox of tension in Los Angeles, where inner city residents were already furious with law enforcement over the killing of a black child by a Korean shopkeeper. Years of heavy-handed police tactics had also bred deep-seated animosity.
When the four police officers were acquitted in a trial in Simi Valley in 1992, South Los Angeles erupted in riots. Fifty-three people were killed in the violent looting, random assaults and protests that some called an "uprising,'' and that others called a complete breakdown of society.
King appeared on television after four days of fires and carnage, pleading "I just want to say, you know, can we -- can't we all just get along?''
In an interview with National Public Radio last April, King said his flight from police back in 1991 was caused by a desire to avoid a drunken driving arrest on a night before he had to go to work.
"My family, everything that I had been working hard for since I'd been out of jail, my whole life was like flashed in front of me,'' King told NPR. "I made a bad mistake by running from them.''
King told interviewers last April that he had spent nearly all of the $3.8 million in civil judgments he had won against the LAPD, spending it on lawyers, relatives and himself.
King appeared at this spring's L.A. Times Festival of Books to promote his tome "The Riot Within: My Journey From Rebellion To Redemption.''
Attendees said he was hopeful and happy, but confessed to being a recovering
addict who suffers nightmares and flashbacks from the severe beating. But King also said he forgave the officers.