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Coroner: Rodney King on Cocaine, PCP Before Drowning

Rodney KingHuman InterestSportsLos Angeles Police DepartmentLos Angeles Riots (1992)Al Sharpton

RIALTO, Calif. (KTLA) -- Rodney King's death was the result of an accidental drowning, although a cocktail of alcohol and drugs in his system were contributing factors, the San Bernardino County coroner's office has determined.

King, who became a symbol for civil rights after his beating by L.A. police officers in 1991, was found dead in the swimming pool of his Rialto home on June 17th. He was 47 years old.

The autopsy and toxicology tests found cocaine, PCP, marijuana and alcohol in his system. His blood-alcohol level was .06.

Those drugs, combined with a heart condition, led to a cardiac arrhythmia, according to the report.

"He was in a state of drug- and alcohol-induced delirium at the time of the terminal event and either fell or jumped into the swimming pool," according to the coroner's report.

No foul play is suspected and the police investigation of his death has been closed, Rialto police said.

King's fiancee, Cynthia Kelly, called 911 around 5:25 a.m. after finding him at the bottom of the swimming pool.

Officers pulled King out of the pool, unresponsive, and attempted CPR, but he was pronounced dead at an area hospital 46 minutes later.

Police said Kelley had been sleeping inside, but King began banging on the sliding glass door. When she went to open it, she heard a loud noise.

She told the 911 operator, "I was asleep (inaudible). I heard something fall from the table and then I looked over (inaudible) and he was at the bottom of the swimming pool."

Kelly, who was a juror in King's lawsuit against the city of Los Angeles in 1994, told police that King was an "avid swimmer" but that she was not.

She says on the tape, "I tried to wake him up but he's at the bottom. (inaudible) a shovel to wake him up. But he's not moving."

Kelly admitted that King had been drinking and possibly smoking marijuana earlier in the night. But she wasn't sure what, if anything, he had taken just prior to his death.

At the time, police said there were no "outward signs" of alcohol or drug use that may have caused King to fall into the pool.

Investigators responding to the incident confiscated what appeared to be marijuana plants from King's home.

Kings' neighbors have investigators conflicting reports about the hours before his death.

One neighbor said she heard King sobbing uncontrollably in his backyard and his fiancee trying to coax him back inside.

She said that there was silence, and then a few minutes later she heard a splash.

Another neighbor said she didn't hear any commotion coming from King's backyard that night, but that it wasn't uncommon for King to swim late at night or early in the morning.

Rodney King's beating by four police officers in 1991 sparked the L.A. riots, and eventually led to major changes in the LAPD and race relations.

KTLA was the first station to air the videotape of the beating, which happened following a short police pursuit.

It shows King cowering on the ground and attempting to crawl away as he is surrounded by a crowd of police officers. Four of them used their nightsticks to strike him.

King was beaten nearly to death. Three surgeons operated on him for five hours.

Four LAPD officers -- Theodore Briseno, Laurence Powell, Timothy Wind and Sgt. Stacey Koon -- were indicted on charges of assault with a deadly weapon and excessive use of force by a police officer.

But following a three-month trial in the predominantly white Los Angeles suburb of Simi Valley, three of the officers were acquitted of all charges.

The jury, which had no black members, deadlocked on one charge of excessive force against Powell, and a mistrial was declared on that charge.

African-Americans in Los Angeles exploded in outrage. Rioters ran through the streets -- looting businesses, torching buildings and attacking those who were in the wrong place at the wrong time.

On the third day of rioting, King emerged from seclusion to make a plea: "People, I just want to say, can we all get along? Can we get along?"

Nearly a year later, the four officers stood trial in federal court on civil rights charges.

Two African-Americans were picked for the jury, and King testified. He hedged, however, on whether police used racial slurs during the beating.

Koon and Powell were found guilty and sentenced to 30 months in prison. Briseno and Wind were acquitted.

King also sued the city of Los Angeles and was awarded $3.8 million in damages.

In later years, King had several more run-ins with the law, including a 90-day jail stint in 1996 for a hit-and-run involving his wife at the time.

On the 20th anniversary of the beating in 2011, he was pulled over and ticketed for a minor traffic violation.

"The trouble that (people) see me in is a part of my life that I'm working on," he said in 2011. "I'll always have an issue when it comes to alcohol. My dad was an alcoholic. The addiction part is in my blood. What I've learned to do is arrest my addiction -- arrest it myself, so I don't get arrested."

In 2008, King appeared on the VH1 reality show "Celebrity Rehab."

Rodney Glen King was born on April 2, 1965 in Sacramento and was raised in Pasadena.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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Rodney KingHuman InterestSportsLos Angeles Police DepartmentLos Angeles Riots (1992)Al Sharpton
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