Rodney King, 1991 LAPD brutality victim, found dead

Rodney King, the well-known victim in a police brutality case in Los Angeles in 1991, is shown in this image. King was found dead at the bottom of a swimming pool at his Rialto, Calif., home Sunday, June 17, 2012.

June 17, 2012 8:47:00 PM PDT
In 1991 one there was no internet and no YouTube.

Still, that 15-minute video of Rodney King being savagely beaten by a group of four white Los Angeles police officers was probably America's first viral video.

It was not the beating that turned king into an icon, it was his words.

"Can we all get along?"

Such simple words. And yet we all remember them. It's been 20 years since the riots that broke out in the aftermath of King's savage beating by four LAPD officers.

Fifty-five people were killed as the city exploded in anger, when an all white jury acquitted the officers of any wrongdoing even though it was on display in this grainy black and white video. Looking back on it, this past April, King said it was a mistake to run from police that night.

"When I saw the tape, I was so happy that it was on tape and then looking at it, it was like me being in another body," he said. I felt like I had died in that one, just watching it."

King didn't die then. But Sunday, at 47, his life was cut short. He was found in his swimming pool by his fiancée, one of the jurors who awarded him nearly $4 million in a civil suit that followed the trial.

"She had gone back into the residence and she heard a splash," said Capt. Randy Deanda of the Rialto, Calif. police department. "She came out to see what happened and she found Mr. King at the bottom of the pool."

In Chicago, Congressman Bobby Rush and Reverend Jesse Jackson reacted to king's death.

"A simple man," Rush said. "A modest man. A man who was placed in the crosshairs of history."

"His plight helped illuminate the dark," said Jackson. "It exposed race profiling and police brutality in a way that none ever had really done before. It was a defining moment."

Police say they are investigating king's death as an accidental drowning, but it's no secret that he struggled with both drugs and alcohol. Earlier this year, king said in an interview that he forgave the officers, but that even now he was still haunted by the beating.

"I'm constantly working on myself," King said, "and knowing what my limits are, and feeling comfortable with me."

An autopsy conducted Monday should clear up what caused King's death. In an interview not too long ago, he was asked what he'd like to put on his headstone.

Not surprisingly his answer was: "Can we all just get along? Can we all just get along in peace?"

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