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Rodney King, the black man whose 1991 beating by police officers sparked deadly riots in Los Angeles was found dead in the swimming pool of his home in Rialto, Calif. King’s fiancée, Cynthia Kelly, reportedly discovered his body and called 911 at 5:25 a.m., reports CNN. Police attempted to revive King at his home located around 50 miles east of Los Angeles but he was pronounced dead at at a local hospital.
Police are carrying out a drowning investigation but emphasized there are no preliminary signs of foul play, reports Reuters.
The 25-year-old King had been drinking and was on parole that fateful March 3, 1991. He later claimed he panicked when he saw a police car following him, so he attempted to escape. When police caught up with King after a high-speed chase he was beaten by four baton-wielding officers more than 50 times. They also kicked him and shot him with stun guns, notes the Associated Press. A man caught it all on videotape and sent a copy to the local TV station, leading to national outrage. When a jury with no black members acquitted three of the officers and declared a mistrial for a fourth, violence broke out almost immediately in Los Angeles, sparking riots that lasted three days and left 55 people dead.
King was eventually awarded a $3.8-million settlement and even took on the status of a celebrity, participating in the VH1 reality show Celebrity Rehab in 2008. “But the money and the fame brought him little solace,” points out the Los Angeles Times. He said he was broke this year and wrote a memoir, The Riot Within, describing how he struggled to move on with his life after the beating.