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On April 29, 1992, four police officers who were accused of beating Rodney King are acquitted. The announcement of the verdict, which enraged the black community, prompted widespread rioting throughout much of Los Angeles. It wasn't until three days later that the arson and looting finally ended.
Immediately after the verdict was announced, protestors took to the streets, engaging in random acts of violence. At the corner of Florence and Normandie streets, Reginald Denny, a white truck driver, was dragged from his truck and severely beaten. A helicopter crew caught the incident on camera and broadcast it live on local television. Viewers saw first-hand that the police, woefully unprepared, were unwilling and unable to enforce the law in certain neighborhoods of the city. As it became evident that breaking the law would yield little, if any, consequences, opportunistic rioters came out in full force in the evening hours, and began to set fires all over the area. Police still had no control of the situation the following day. Thousands of people packed the streets and began looting stores. Korean-owned businesses were targeted in particular. For most, the looting was simply a crime of opportunity rather than any political expression. The acquitted police officers were later convicted of violating Rodney King's civil rights in a federal court trial. Reginald Denny's attackers were identified through the helicopter videotape, arrested, and convicted of assault and battery. However, the jury declined to convict on attempted murder charges, apparently due to the defense's argument that the defendants had only fallen prey to uncontrollable mob rage.
Michael Thomas Barry is the author of Murder & Mayhem 52 Crimes that Shocked Early California 1849-1949. The book can be purchased from Amazon through the following link: