Rodney King Arrested on Drunk Driving Charge in Orange County


Rodney G. King, whose beating by Los Angeles police officers created a national uproar, was arrested early Thursday in a restaurant parking lot on suspicion of drunk driving, the California Highway Patrol reported.

Officers said they had followed another traffic violator into a restaurant parking lot about 1:40 a.m. when they noticed a vehicle back out of a parking space in an “erratic manner” before skidding to a stop and hitting a concrete block, said Officer Angel Johnson, a CHP spokeswoman.

The CHP officers stopped the vehicle, recognized the driver as King and smelled alcohol on his breath, she said. He apparently was leaving the restaurant at Chapman Avenue and State College Boulevard after meeting his wife and friends, according to officers.


King failed field sobriety tests and was booked into the Orange County Jail, where he was released on his own recognizance about 6:50 a.m., Johnson said. While detained, he refused to take breath, blood and urine tests. Until then, “he was very cooperative and quiet,” Johnson said.

Escorted by his lawyer, King walked past waiting reporters and television crews after his release without answering any questions.

But his attorney, Steve A. Lerman, said during a sidewalk news conference that King is suffering from post-traumatic stress syndrome from his beating by Los Angeles officers, which might be manifesting itself through excessive drinking. On the night of the March, 1991, incident, King, who led authorities on a 100-m.p.h. chase, was determined to have been legally drunk.

Employees at the restaurant where King was arrested Thursday saw the police pull into the parking lot, but had no idea what had occurred.

“They all saw the arrest,” said Michael Jones, a restaurant employee who had heard about the arrest from the night crew. “They saw the flashing lights and the police cars in the parking lot, but no one knew it was Rodney King until we saw it on the news.”

The Orange County district attorney’s office is studying the arrest report to decide if King will be charged on a misdemeanor count of driving under the influence of alcohol, Deputy Dist. Atty. Bruce Patterson said. King is scheduled to be arraigned Aug. 13 in Orange County Municipal Court in Santa Ana.

As required by new state drunk driving laws, King’s driver’s license was confiscated.

King can ask for a Department of Motor Vehicles hearing within 10 days of receiving a notice of suspension. DMV officials would then have 45 days to make a decision. If the decision went against him, King could file for a court review within 30 days, said Quin Liven, a spokesman for the DMV.

Thursday’s arrest was King’s fourth encounter with police since his beating.

On June 26, King was detained at his apartment after his wife reported that he had injured her during a dispute and that she feared for her life. Police released him on the same day, saying there was insufficient evidence to book him.

On May 28, 1991, police arrested King in Hollywood, saying he had tried to use his car to run down an undercover vice officer after picking up a transvestite prostitute. Bypassing normal regulations, authorities released him on his own recognizance. Later, authorities said that King apparently believed the undercover officer was a potential robber, and no charges were filed against him.

Three weeks earlier, on May 11, Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies stopped King in Santa Fe Springs because his car had illegally tinted windows. Officers found that his vehicle registration had expired and he was not carrying his driver’s license, but he was not cited.

Times staff writer Bob Elston contributed to this report.

SONG CRITICIZES KING Rodney King is accused in a rap song of selling out by calling for an end to the L.A. rioting. F2