Los Angeles Riots Erupt Following Acquittal of LAPD Officers Accused of Beating Rodney King
The Los Angeles Riots of 1992, also known as the Rodney King riots, were sparked on April 29, 1992 when a jury acquitted four Los Angeles Police Department officers accused in the videotaped beating of African-American motorist Rodney King following a high-speed pursuit. Thousands of people in the Los Angeles area rioted over the six days following the verdict. Widespread looting, assault, arson and murder occurred, and property damages topped roughly US$1 billion. Many of the crimes were racially motivated or perpetrated. In all, 53 people died during the riots and thousands more were injured.
The riots, beginning in the evening after the verdicts, peaked in intensity over the next two days, but ultimately continued for several days. A curfew, and deployment of the National Guard began to control the situation; eventually U.S. Army soldiers and United States Marines were ordered to the city to quell disorder as well.
Fifty-three lives were lost with as many as 2,000 people injured. Estimates of the material losses vary between about $800 million and $1 billion. Approximately 3,600 fires were set, destroying 1,100 buildings, with fire calls coming once every minute at some points; widespread looting also occurred. Stores owned by Korean and other Asian immigrants were widely targeted, although stores owned by whites and African-Americans were targeted by rioters as well. Street gangs used the riot as an opportunity to settle scores with each other, and fought the police and military as well.
Many of the disturbances were concentrated in South Central Los Angeles, which was primarily composed of African-American and Hispanic residents. Approximately 51% of all riot arrestees and more than a third of those killed during the violence were Hispanic.
In Los Angeles, California, four Los Angeles police officers that had been caught beating an unarmed African-American motorist in an amateur video are acquitted of any wrongdoing in the arrest. Hours after the verdicts were announced, outrage and protest turned to violence, as rioters in south-central Los Angeles blocked freeway traffic and beat motorists, wrecked and looted numerous downtown stores and buildings, and set more than 100 fires.
On March 3, 1991, paroled felon Rodney King led police on a high-speed chase through the streets of Los Angeles County before eventually surrendering. Intoxicated and uncooperative, King resisted arrest and was brutally beaten by police officers Laurence Powell, Theodore Briseno, and Timothy Wind. Unbeknownst to the police, a citizen with a personal video camera was filming the arrest, and the 89-second video caught the police beating King with their batons and kicking him long after he was capable of resistance. The video, released to the press, caused outrage around the country and triggered a national debate on police brutality.