Saturday, March 5, 2011

The night Rodney King made world history in America by getting a cop beat-down

Rodney King is savagely beaten and humiliated by LA police 

 The beating of Rodney King 20 years, March 3, 1991, is remembered by the media. It was the police beating heard around the world; a world that expressed shock about America and its attitude toward African Americans.  The beating produced a memorable video and a memorable event.

King was pulled over in Arcadia, California.He ran a red light and fled he fled from the police. He had been drinking and he was on parole. It was past midnight. George Holiday, who lived at the Lake View Terrace apartments had just purchased a camcorder and was learning how to operate it when he caught the King beating by LA police officers.

Had Holiday not been standing in the right window at the right time, the King beating would have been swept under the carpet, as often the case in Los Angeles. It would have been just another day at the office for the policemen who had solidified their story. The now famous video hit the media two days later. King was beaten within an inch of his life that March 3, 1991. The horrendous beating  guaranteed him a page in history books and magazines.

The no guilty verdicts that followed the trials of officers Laurence Powell, Theodore Briseno, Timothy Wind, and Stacey Koon in 1992 launched riots in the streets of Los Angeles. Fifty people were killed, an estimated 2,000 were injured. Property damage due to fires and looting was in the high millions.

Ironically, a grand jury indicted the officers, but an all white jury in Semi Valley looked at the police officers through different colored lens. King must have been guilty of a crime, otherwise there wouldn't have been reason to chase him, beat him, arrest him.

It was doing the riots that King asked this question in a nervous, quivering voice: “Can we all get along?” This was his attempt to quell the angry rioters. The King beating caused the LA Police Department to look at itself, deciding it had to make changes. Below is a LAPD timeline that led to the savage beating.

The Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) Officers' Trials: A Chronology

March 2, 1991--King drinks heavily at the home of Bryant ("Pooh") Allen while watching a basketball game. After the game, King, Allen, and another friend named Freddie Helms drive down the 210 freeway, singing to the radio.

King shows the media his wounds
March 3, 1991--About 12:30 A.M., King's Hyundai is spotted speeding on the 210 freeway by two California Highway Patrol officers, Tim and Melanie Singer. The CHP officers pursue King at speeds of over 110 mph. King's vehicle is finally cut off about fifteen minutes later. As the Singers, with guns drawn, attempt to arrest King, Sgt. Stacey Koon and three other LAPD officers (Laurence Powell, Theodore Briseno, and Timothy Wind) intervene. From his nearby apartment, George Holliday videotapes the scene, as three officers strike King over fifty times with metal batons before finally handcuffing him. King is taken to a hospital by ambulance.

March 4, 1991-- Holliday gives his videotape to Los Angeles television station KTLA. KTLA takes the tape to LAPD headquarters, where it is viewed by senior officers. That night, KTLA broadcasts the Holliday videotape on the evening news.

March 5, 1991--CNN obtains a copy of the Holliday videotape and plays it on its nationwide cable news program. The FBI opens an investigation of the King beating.

March 6, 1991--The Holliday videotape is played on the evening news programs of all major networks. Most viewers express shock at what they see. King, meanwhile, is released from jail without charges.

March 7, 1991--Los Angeles Police Chief Daryl Gates announces that the officers involved in the King beating will be prosecuted.

March 8, 1991--District Attorney Ira Reiner announces that he will seek indictments against the officers from a grand jury. Fifteen officers present at the scene of the King arrest are suspended.

March 10, 1991--A Los Angeles Times poll reports that 92% of those who had seen the Holliday videotape thought excessive force had been used against King.

March 11, 1991--A grand jury watches the videotape and begins listening to testimony.

March 14, 1991--The grand jury returns indictments against Stacey Koon, Laurence Powell, Timothy Wind, and Theodore Brisenio.

April 1, 1991--Amidst charges against the LAPD of racism and incompetence, Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley announces that a commission headed by Warren Christopher will evaluate the performance of the LAPD.

April 2, 1991--Mayor Bradley asks for the resignation of Police Chief Gates, but Gates refuses.

May 16, 1991--Judge Bernard Kamins sets June 17 as the opening date for the trial of the four officers. He denies a defense motion for a change of venue out of Los Angeles County. The defense appeals the denial of their motion.

In photo at the to King is asking rioters: 

"We we all get along?" He is attempting to quell the rioters. Photo at left is King years later.

July 23, 1991--The California Court of Appeals unanimously grants the change of venue motion. The Court also takes the case from Judge Kamins because of a message he sent to prosecutors: "Don't panic. You can trust me." The case is reassigned to Judge Stanley Weisberg.

Nov. 26, 1991--Judge Weisberg transfers the LAPD Officers' case to predominantly white and conservative Simi Valley. He announces that the case will be heard beginning in February.

February 3, 1992--State trial of the four officers begins at the East Ventura County Courthouse in Simi Valley.

March 2, 1992--A jury of ten whites, one Hispanic, and one Filipino-American is selected. Six jurors are male, six female.

April 29, 1992.--At 3:15 P. M., Jury acquits Koon, Wind, and Briseno of all charges. Jury is unable to reach verdict on one charge against Powell. About 5:00 P. M., rioting begins in Los Angeles. When it is over, 53 people are dead, over 7,000 people arrested, and more than $1 billion in property damage is sustained.

April 30, 1992--President George Bush announces that he has ordered the Department of Justice to investigate the possibility of filing charges against the LAPD officers for violating the federal civil rights of Rodney King.

August 4, 1992--A federal grand jury returns indictments against the four officers.

Feb. 25, 1993--Trial begins in the courtroom of Judge Davies on the charge of violating the civil rights of Rodney King.

April 16, 1993--The federal jury convicts Koon and Powell on one charge of violating King's civil rights. Wind and Briseno are found not guilty. No disturbances follow the verdict.

August 4, 1993--Judge Davies sentences Powell and Koon to thirty months in a federal correctional camp. Various civil rights groups complain that the sentences are not harsh enough.

August 27, 1993--The Justice Department announces that it will appeal the sentence of Judge Davies as too light.

Oct. 12-13, 1993--Powell and Koon report one day apart to Camp Parks near San Francisco to begin serving their federal sentences.

April 19, 1994--In a civil suit by King against Los Angeles, a jury awards $3.8 million in damages.

April 22, 1994 --A civil suit against the officers begins before Judge Davies. King asks for $15 million in damages.

June 1, 1994--A civil trial against the officers ends with a jury awarding $0 in damages to King.

Jan. 13, 1995--The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals rules that the sentences by Judge Davies was too lenient and sends the case back for re-sentencing.

Sept. 28, 1995--The U. S. Supreme Court agrees to hear Koon's and Powell's appeal of the Ninth Circuit decision sending their case back to Judge Davies for imposition of a harsher sentence.

Oct. 15-16, 1995--Koon is released from the Federal Work Camp in Sheridan, Oregon, to enter a halfway house in California. Powell is released from a Federal Work Camp near Edwards Air Force Base, north of Los Angeles.

Nov. 23, 1995--An armed assailant invades a halfway house in Rubidoux, California in an attempt to kill Koon, but Koon is away for the Thanksgiving holiday. The armed invader in killed by police in a shoot-out. Koon is allowed to serve the remainder of his term in a form of house arrest.

Dec. 13-14, 1995--Powell, then Koon are released.

June 13, 1996--The U. S. Supreme Court reverses the Ninth Circuit and upholds the sentence of Judge Davies on most points, but orders re-sentencing on the basis of two errors.

Sept. 26, 1996--Judge Davies refuses to extend the sentences of Koon and Powell. He reimposes the thirty month sentence, effectively ending the case. From the LAPD Officers' Trials Homepage.

Update: On June 17, 2012 Rodney King was found dead at the bottom of his home swimming pool. He was fund by his live-in girl friend. His death was ruled an accident. 

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