Rodney King Dead at 47

Rodney King - The Riot Within
Getty Images

UPDATED: The "Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew" star, best known as the victim of police brutality in 1991 that spurred the Los Angeles riots, was found dead at his home Sunday morning.

Rodney King, who was at the forefront of a police brutality trial after he was videotaped being viciously beaten in 1991, was found dead Sunday morning, according to reports. He was 47.

King was found by his fiance, Cynthia Kelley, at the bottom of the swimming pool in his home early Sunday morning in Rialto, CA, according to Capt. Randy DeAnda. Law enforcement responded to a call at 5:45 am PST, and King was removed from the pool where CPR was attempted at the scene. He was pronounced dead at a local hospital at 6:11 am, according to police reports. 

Rialto police will open a drowning investigation, according to TMZ, but so far there are no signs of foul play.

King became known worldwide after he was brutally beaten by three police officers on March 2, 1991. The incident was sparked when King, then 25, and two friends, Bryant Allen and Freddie Helms, were driving west on Interstate 210 in the San Fernando Valley area of Los Angeles. Two officers spotted King’s car speeding (the initial police report stated that King had reached a speed of 117 miles per hour, but an LAPD officer later told reporters that the exact speed of King's car was closer to 90 miles per hour). According to King's statement, he refused to pull the car over because he thought a DUI would violate his parole for a previous robbery conviction.

After police finally caught up with him, officers attempted to handcuff King but he physically resisted. The officers later testified that they believed King was under the influence of PCP, but toxicology results show that he was merely under the influence of alcohol.

Videotape footage showed the officers tasered him and struck him 56 times with a baton, including in the head, and kicked him six times (watch a 1991 news clip highlighting the spectator footage below). After the three officers went to trial and were acquitted on April 29, 1992, riots broke out in Los Angeles, with widepread anger, looting and violence occuring throughout the city. During the next two days, 53 people died, including 10 shot by the LAPD and National Guard, and as many as 2,000 people were injured.  “Why can’t we all just get along?” King famously asked reporters while the city burned.

King was eventually awarded $3.8 million for the injuries he sustained during the 1991 beating.

Since the incident, King, who had a prior history of drug and alcohol abuse and arrest, has been arrested nearly a dozen times for offenses such as spousal abuse, driving while intoxicated, reckless driving, drug possession and soliciting a transvestite prostitute. 

In 2008, King became a cast member in the second season of Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew. The following year he appeared in a Celebrity Rehab spin-off show, Sober House, and has been working on his sobriety ever since. “I’ve learned a lot over the years about the effects of alcohol,” King said in an interview with Dr. Drew in April. He later added, “I’m really comfortable with myself these days. I don’t drink like I used to.”

In 2010, King became engaged to Cynthia Kelley, who was a juror in the civil suit he brought against the city of Los Angeles. King penned a memoir, The Riot Within: My Journey from Rebellion to Redemption, which was published by Harper Collins just last month. 

Asked in April on the 20th anniversary of the riots if he thought race relations have improved in L.A., he said, "As far as coming a long ways, I think we have come a little ways. We’ve got a long ways to go, like Martin Luther King said, and when it comes to race relations, we should always be working on that in this country because of our history of it.”