Contempt of Cop: The Rodney King Beating
On March 3, 1991, Los Angeles police officers attempted to stop a white sedan traveling at a high rate of speed through Lake View Terrace, a residential neighborhood in northern Los Angeles. After a short pursuit, King was ordered out of his vehicle at gunpoint. King refused to comply and became belligerent and uncooperative. The use of open-hand controls, pepper spray and tasers were ineffective, as King continued to assault officers while resisting arrest. More LAPD officers arrived and King was finally subdued with the use of nightsticks. Investigation later revealed King was under the influence of a combination of PCP and cocaine.
This incident would have produced nothing more than another report for resisting arrest had a bystander, George Holliday, not videotaped the altercation. Holliday then released the footage to the media. LAPD Officers Lawrence Powell, Stacey Koon, Timothy Wind and Theodore Brisino were indicted and charged with assaulting King. Superior Court Judge Stanley Weisberg ordered a change of venue to suburban Simi Valley, which is a predominantly white suburb of Los Angeles. All officers were subsequently acquitted by a jury comprised of 10 whites, one Hispanic and one Asian, and the African American community responded in a manner far worse than the Watts Riots of 1965. "While the King beating was tragic, it was just the trigger that released the rage of a community in economic strife and a police department in serious decline. If it hadn't been Rodney King, it might well have been something else that caused so much destruction and rage. And even today, the truth about King's case is far more elusive than it seemed at the time." (Bonne, 2001) Massive rioting left 32 people dead, hundreds injured and more than $4 million in property damage. "If only Superior Court Judge Stanley Weisberg had followed appeals court rulings precisely and moved the trial outside of the reach of the L.A....
References: Bonne, J.E. (Writer), & Smits, L.D. (Director). (2001) The Rodney King Beating: 10 Years Later. Ramsey, D.A. (Producer) Anatomy of a Crime. Court T.V.
Cannon, L.F. (1998). Rodney King 's Legacy. Retrieved June 19, 2005, from http://www.courttv.com/archive/casefiles/rodneyking
Cannon, L.F. (1998). Official Negligence: How Rodney King and the Riots Changed Los Angeles and the LAPD. Washington D.C.: Crown
Koon, S.D. (1992). Presumed Guilty: The Tragedy of the Rodney King Affair. Washington D.C.: Regenery
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