A look at prominent figures in 1992 riot, where they are now
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Some of the key players have died. Others have gone on quietly with their lives in the 25 years since a jury acquitted four white police officers in the videotaped beating of black motorist Rodney King.
Days of deadly rioting began almost immediately after jurors set the officers free on April 29, 1992. Here are snapshots of King and the others who had prominent roles in those events.
The video of his beating after a March 3, 1991, traffic stop drew international attention. The riot came more than a year later, when the four officers seen in the video were acquitted of assault and other charges. On the third day of the uprising, King went on TV to plead for calm, asking in a trembling voice, “Can we all get along?” In subsequent years, he was arrested numerous times, mainly for alcohol-related crimes. He would reveal in his 2012 memoir that he struggled with alcoholism since childhood. King sued Los Angeles over the beating and was awarded $3.8 million in 1994, but he told The Associated Press in 2012 that he lost most of that money to bad investments. King drowned in his backyard swimming pool on June 17, 2012, at age 47. A coroner’s report stated he had cocaine, marijuana, PCP and alcohol in his body.
The police sergeant in charge when Rodney King was beaten, Koon was a 14-year veteran of the LAPD who had been commended several times for his work. Acquitted of criminal charges at his state trial, Koon was later convicted in federal court of violating King’s civil rights and sentenced to 30 months in prison. In his memoir, “Presumed Guilty: The Tragedy of the Rodney King Affair,” he maintained he and his fellow officers did nothing wrong. Instead, he blamed the riot on the reaction of the news media and city officials to King’s beating. Koon lives in a Los Angeles suburb.
Powell, one of the four officers, is seen on the video hitting King more than 40 times. He also was acquitted of state charges but convicted in federal court of violating King’s civil rights and sentenced to 30 months in prison. He lives in the San Diego area and has said he will no longer discuss the King case.
A highly regarded rookie cop until the King beating, Wind is seen on the videotape striking King with his baton. Acquitted of all charges, he was still fired by the LAPD and has struggled to put his past behind him. He was hired as a police department community relations officer for the small Los Angeles suburb of Culver City in 1994 and remained in that job until 2000 when he moved to Indiana to attend law school. Public records show he now lives in Kansas.
Briseno, who stomped on King’s back during the beating (he claimed to keep King on the ground so the beating would stop), broke ranks with his fellow officers and sharply criticized their actions. A fellow officer quoted him as saying immediately after King’s arrest that Koon had mishandled the situation. During his criminal trial he testified that Powell, who struck King the most, was out of control and the beating was excessive. He was acquitted of all charges but was fired by the LAPD and struggled to find work afterward. He now lives in Illinois.
Gates had been Los Angeles’ chief of police for 14 years when the rioting erupted, and he was pressured to retire shortly afterward. Until then, he was nationally respected for pioneering such policing innovations as the special weapons and tactics (SWAT) team and the Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE) programs that partner police with schools. But he also was despised in the city’s black community over perceived racism and remarks like one he made that blacks were more likely to die when placed in police chokeholds because their arteries did not reopen as quickly as those of “normal people.” Gates, who blamed his command staff for letting the riot get out of control during its early hours, died of cancer in 2010. He was 83.
Holliday was awakened by the 1991 traffic stop outside his San Fernando Valley home. He went outside to film it with his new video camera, catching the four white officers beating and kicking King. Holliday, who lives in a Los Angeles suburb and works as a plumber, says he is working on a documentary about his role in the King case.
SOON JA DU
The Korean grocer’s killing of a 15-year-old black girl, Latasha Harlins, in a dispute over a bottle of orange juice, raised tensions in the black community just two weeks after King’s beating. Those tensions escalated further when she was convicted of manslaughter but sentenced only to probation and community service. Many in Los Angeles’ black community still say Du’s sentencing played almost as big a role in triggering the riot as King’s beating. Du, 77, lives in Los Angeles’ San Fernando Valley.
The white truck driver who drove into the epicenter of the riots as they were just beginning was pulled by several black men from the cab of his big rig and beaten nearly to death as millions watched in horror on live TV. Denny underwent numerous operations to repair his shattered head, put an eye back into its socket and reset his jaw. After the beating, he publicly forgave his attackers and even met with one of them, who publicly apologized. Since then, he has remained steadfastly out of the spotlight, living quietly in Arizona where he has worked as a boat mechanic.
DAMIAN “FOOTBALL” WILLIAMS
One of several men videotaped attacking Denny after the white trucker stopped his vehicle at a South Los Angeles intersection to avoid hitting rioters, Williams is the one seen smashing a brick into Denny’s head as he struggles to get back to his feet. He was convicted of mayhem, assault and other charges and sentenced to 10 years in prison. Released after four years, he was convicted of the 2000 murder of a Los Angeles drug dealer and sentenced to 46 years to life in prison. He remains incarcerated at California’s Calipatra State Prison.
HENRY KEITH “KEEKEE” WATSON
Watson, who stomped on Denny during the attack, was convicted of misdemeanor assault and sentenced to time served for the 17 months he spent in jail before his case was resolved. He later apologized personally to Denny, the only one of his attackers to do so. An ex-Marine and father of two grown daughters, Watson went into business and operates a successful limousine service. He still lives in the neighborhood where he grew up, just a few blocks from where Denny was attacked.
Miller was convicted of robbing Denny during the beating and sentenced to 27 months of probation. He was shot to death at age 31 in a Hollywood nightclub in 2004.
Williams, who was videotaped going through Denny’s pockets as he lay on the ground, pleaded guilty to beating and attempting to rob the truck driver. He was sentenced to three years in prison. His immediate whereabouts could not be determined.
Green was one of the riot’s greatest heroes. The black truck driver was watching the violence unfold on television at his Los Angeles home when he saw Denny being attacked and quickly headed to the scene. He and others helped push Denny back into his truck’s cab and then Green drove him to the hospital, saving his life. Later, despite threats and insults from the community, he testified against Denny’s attackers. Green lives with his family in a Los Angeles suburb.