Death of Rodney King ruled as accidental
Rodney King — who became known after being harshly beaten by Los Angeles police officers following a high-speed car chase in 1991 — had been drinking and was under the influence of drugs when he plunged into a swimming pool and accidentally drowned back in June — this according to a coroner’s report released on Thursday.
According to reports, Rialto Police Captain Randy DeAnda said that the coroner’s report confirmed a previous judgment that 47-year-old Rodney KIng accidentally died, and now the case will be closed.
“It concludes our investigation,” DeAnda said. “Basically, our investigation revealed the same conclusion and now that we have the toxicology, it basically reinforces that.”
King, whose beating by the Los Angeles police was caught on tape and subsequently led to a deadly riot, had long struggled with addiction.
Previous reports stated that on June 17, Cynthia Kelley, the fiancee of Rodney King, called the police to his Rialto home at 5:30. Officers pulled him from the bottom of the swimming pool, and was declared dead at a hospital where he was brought. Kelley told the authorities that she was in bed when she was suddenly awakened and saw King at a patio door.
“She described him making grunting and growling sounds and having frothy secretions coming from his mouth,” the report stated.
The moment Rodney King fell over a planter, that was when Kelley grabbed her mobile phone to call for help. She then heard a splash and by the time she got to the pool, her fiance was already face down in the deep end. The report added that since Cynthia Kelley could not swim, she tried to revive Rodney King by using a pitchfork and hoe to prod him before the police arrived.
The San Bernardino County coroner’s report listed the cause of death as drowning “and the contributing cause was combined with ethanol (alcohol) and multiple drug toxicity,” Captain DeAnda said.
According to the toxicology tests, it showed Rodney King had a blood-alcohol level of .06 and amounts of PCP, cocaine and marijuana in his system.
“Mr. King was in a state of drug- and alcohol-induced delirium at the time of the terminal event and either fell or jumped into the swimming pool,” DeAnda said. “Obviously, the effects of the drugs and alcohol combined precipitated some kind of cardiac arrhythmia, thus incapacitated Mr. King, and he was unable to save himself.”
A neighbor said that after King passed away, she had heard sobbing from his house earlier that morning. It sounded like someone “really crying, like really deep emotions. … Like tired or sad, you know?” neighbor Sandra Gardea said.
The coroner’s report outlined several injuries that Rodney King sustained over his lifetime, including multiple birdshot pellets that remained in his body after he was shot back in 2007 by a shotgun.
King was also fond of skateboarding, and some of the injuries seen by the medical examiners may have been a result of his falls while playing — his brother, Zhan Paul King told investigators.
The death of King occurred just a few months after the 20th anniversary of the Los Angeles riot that brought him refurbished attention. During the intervening years, he had battled with substance abuse and was involved in a series of arrests.
However, at the time, Rodney King had just published a book detailing his life and was upbeat.
“America’s been good to me after I paid the price and stayed alive through it all,” King told The Associated Press. “This part of my life is the easy part now.”
Back in March 1991, then-25-year-old King led police officers on a wild, high-speed car chase that ended on a darkened street. He was halted by four Los Angeles cops who were caught on videotape beating him more than 50 times using batons, then kicking him and shooting him with stun guns. King sustained 11 skull fractures from the beating incident, plus a broken eye socket and facial nerve damage.
A resident was able to videotape the beating and it was played over and over for a year, which resulted in inflaming racial tensions.
The trial of the four Los Angeles police officers, which was moved to the predominantly white suburb of Simi Valley, came to an end on April 29, 1992. A jury with no black members acquitted three of the cops on state charges and a mistrial was declared for a fourth.
Within hours, Los Angeles was enveloped in flames and violence. Fifty-five people died in the tumultuous riot, more than 2,000 were injured and more than $1 billion in damage was done.
At the height of the city-wide turmoil, Rodney King made his famous plea for peace, saying, “Can we all get along?”