On March 31, 1991, Rodney King had been driving home after having a few drinks with friends when police attempted to pull him over. King, who admitted he was on parole at the time and believed he would go back to prison if he were caught drinking, led police on a high-speed chase through Los Angeles. Police caught up with King and a witness was able to film police using an excessive amount of force in order to apprehend him.
The video clearly shows King being beaten repeatedly as the Los Angeles police shout out racially charged expletives at him. The case shed light on the growing problem of racial profiling by police and made national headlines in the months following King’s arrest.
Four of the officers involved in the arrest of King were charged with use of excessive force and assault with a deadly weapon. The six-day trial would receive media coverage around the world.
When the “not guilty” verdict was read on April 29, 1992, many were outraged at the injustice. Taking to the streets of Los Angeles, supporters of King began to protest. These protests would later snowball into arson, looting, and killings. The Army National Guard was forced to restore order to the streets. By the time the riots ended the city had seen over $1 billion in property damage, 2,000 people had been injured, and another 53 people had been killed. Over 11,000 suspects were taken into police custody.
Memories of the LA Riots live on as a very dark time in California history and subsequently brought about reform from the top down within the Los Angeles police force. It’s been 25 long years since then, but even now the event continues to make headlines. Most recently, Los Angeles police have finally identified all 53 of the victims who died as a result of the riots.
On May 2, 1992, the body of Armando Ortiz Hernandez was found inside an auto body shop that was set on fire during the riots. His death was ruled to have been a result of “inhalation of smoke, soot, carbon monoxide and thermal burns,” CBS reports.
Investigators were able to identify Hernandez from a single fingerprint. It is unclear why it took so long for Hernandez to be identified or if his fingerprint had been run through databases previously in an attempt to make a positive match.