Rodney King is probably now at peace. There are no more demons left to fight for King. There are no more adversities and challenges to overcome. There are no more rehabilitation centers to attend to get cleaned up and figure out what life’s purpose is all about. There will be no more days of having to wake up to and deal with the excruciating muscle pain that has tortured his body for the last two decades.
There will no more recollection efforts about the horrific beating he endured at the hands of four Los Angeles police officers that painted a vividly detailed picture to the public about police brutality. King’s tortured soul has transitioned into the heavens after drowning in a pool in his own backyard. His weary body can now lay at rest.
It is an unfortunate and sad ending to a life manipulated by childhood abuse, drug addiction, alcohol dependency and The Beating. King was 47. He appeared to finally have reclaimed a life that had been teetering on the edge of disaster to one that had become productive and headed in the right direction. It ended too soon.
His outlook on life seemed as if it was on the bright side. Twenty years after the Los Angeles riots, the central figure of the civil unrest was claiming a life of sobriety and clean living in his book, “The Riot Within: My Journey From Rebellion to Redemption,” which was released just this year. That testament is now being challenged by way of the law enforcement agency that confiscated and took away marijuana plants from King’s home after his drowning.
In many ways this speaks to the contradiction of the life that King lived. In his autobiography, “The Riot Within: My Journey From Rebellion to Redemption,” King is blunt about battling his imperfections and trying to stay on the right track. That is no more evident as King talks about trying to remove himself from the hurt, pain and disgrace he had to endure as a result of the beating he took that brought police brutality into America’s living rooms in living color.
“I am not totally clean, I have not completely forgotten. I am not without misgivings, but I want to be,” King says in “The Riot Within: My Journey From Rebellion to Redemption.” “I sincerely want to be a better human being. There is no longer a riot raging within me. I have forgiven the politicians and lawyers who tried so hard to make me what I was not.
“I no longer blame them for taking a battered and confused addict and trying to make him into a symbol for civil rights. I realize I will always be the poster child for police brutality, But I can try to use that as a positive force for healing and restraint.”
Restraint was something that LAPD police officers Stacey Koon, Lawrence Powell, Timothy Wind and Theodore Briseno failed to use on the night of March 3, 1991, when they took down King with a relentless beating that rendered the Northern California native into a helpless heap of flesh, torn and bloodied.
Spaced out on alcohol, King zoomed along on a Loa Angeles freeway upward to 115 miles per hour before being stopped. King was tasered at least twice and beat with police batons 56 times. What he looked like after his rough encounter with those police officers resembled something out of a horror movie.
Caught on videotape by an amateur photographer, King’s beating inflamed racial tensions and put a severe strain on the invisible relationship between the black community and law enforcement. The subsequent acquittal of those police officers in a criminal trial brought on the 1992 civil unrest in which King innocently asked, “Can We All Get Along?”
The riots were a nightmare with catastrophic damages to South Los Angeles and other parts of the city. King found himself a rallying symbol for civil rights and justice. It was a role he wanted no part of. But because of the significance of the moment, King went along with the program. What he got was a multi-million civil suit settlement and fame as a newfound celebrity.
He also found trouble. After receiving a little over $3.8 million for a civil judgment, King was pulled over and taken into custody on several DUI charges and a variety of other run-ins with the law. While the Rodney King beating punctured the air of arrogance out of the ways things were done by law enforcement agencies when it comes to apprehending citizens or placing them into custody, it left a long-lasting scar on the man as well.
While major reforms within the LAPD came about as a result of the police beating, trying to rebuff all of the physical, emotional and psychological damage resulting from that incident proved to be a stiff challenge to overcome for King. He was in and out of rehab. But he could never fully claim to finally defeating his inner demons. Despite making peace with some of his tormentors and political adversaries, King was still a work in progress to be a better person before he passed away.
In an excerpt from “The Riot Within: My Journey From Rebellion to Redemption,” King speaks about his dueling dilemma.
“My heart is in the right place, my mind is optimistic about the future, and my spirit is alive and hopeful,” King said. “There is much work ahead for me, but I have surrounded myself with people who are not toxic, who truly love me and want the best for me. I’ve discovered that redemption is best kept within reach and is often attained just as surely by the things I choose not to do. By striving for redemption, I can seek the good that moves me in the right direction.”