It remains one of the most disturbing police beatings ever recorded on camera. An African American man being beaten senselessly by four police officers while a crowd of other cops stood there and watched. Caught on videotape, the incident would shock the country and was the main culprit for what started the 1992 L.A. Riots.
The event started on the Foothill Freeway in the San Fernando Valley with an intoxicated Rodney King being followed by a California Highway Patrol (CHP) car that was trying to pull him over. He refused to pull over, later admitting that a drunk drunk driving charge would violate his parole. As he led them on a high-speed chase, King finally exited the freeway into the Lake View Terrace area of Los Angeles.
King and the other two passengers were ordered to get out of the vehicle and lay flat on the ground. The first two passengers complied promptly while King remained in the car for longer. When he finally got out, he was gagged and pinned to the ground. Upon arriving to the scene, LAPD sergeant Stacy Koon informed the CHP officers that the police would be taking over the arrest from this point forward.
Koon ordered four of his officers to restrain King but as he resisted, he was tasered by Koon at least twice and once by another officer. As King tried to rise a few more times, the officers pummeled him with their batons to, reportedly 33 times, before placing King in handcuffs and dragging him to the side of the road to await an emergency medical team.
While Rodney King did not die from the brutal beating, he suffered tremendously with a broken leg, fractured cheekbone, and eleven broken bones in his skull. Perhaps the most sickening part of it all was what officer Laurence Powell said after the incident: “I haven’t beaten anyone this bad in a while” (LA Times, 3/24/1991).
Below is the video that shocked the nation. Viewer discretion is advised.