Charting the Hours of Chaos
The acquittals of four LAPD officers in the Rodney G. King beating case 10 years ago today left the city stunned. Crowds gathered angrily on street corners across the city, while thousands more turned to their televisions to watch events unfold. The flash point was a single gritty intersection in South-Central Los Angeles, but it was a scene eerily repeated in many parts of Los Angeles in the hours that followed.
Here is a chronology of events between the verdicts and the end of curfew five days later.
For the record:
12:00 AM, May. 01, 2002 FOR THE RECORD
Los Angeles Times Wednesday May 1, 2002 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 A2 Desk 1 inches; 33 words Type of Material: Correction
Smart & Final store: A caption accompanying a story about the Los Angeles riots in Monday’s California section incorrectly described the location of a Smart & Final store as the 4600 block of South Vermont Avenue; it is in the 3600 block.
For The Record
Los Angeles Times Friday, April 13, 2012 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 4 Advance Desk 1 inches; 43 words Type of Material: Correction
L.A. riots: An April 29 story incorrectly referred to the April 1992 Los Angeles riots as the ‘deadliest in the 20th century.’ In 1921, a riot by a predominantly white mob in Tulsa resulted in the deaths of an estimated 300 black residents.
April 29, 1992
3:15 p.m.: Three LAPD officers are acquitted and one is partially acquitted in the videotaped beating of motorist Rodney G. King, setting off a powerful chain reaction.
3:30 to 3:45 p.m.: The crowd outside the Simi Valley courthouse in Ventura County swells to more than 300, most of them protesting the verdicts.
3:30 to 5 p.m.: Community activists and leaders meet to urge calm.
5 to 6 p.m.: More than two dozen officers confront a growing crowd near Florence and Normandie avenues in South-Central Los Angeles. Outnumbered, police back off and do not return. The crowd vents its anger on passing motorists.
About 6:30 p.m.: Several hundred demonstrators gather outside Parker Center, the police headquarters, in downtown Los Angeles.
About 6:45 p.m.: In one of the most startling images of the riots, truck driver Reginald O. Denny is pulled from his cab and severely beaten. Four people, some of whom saw the beating on TV, come to his aid.
6 to 7 p.m.: Police begin arriving at a command post at a bus depot at 54th Street and Arlington Avenue.
6 to 8 p.m.: More than 2,000 gather for a peaceful rally at the First African Methodist Episcopal Church.
6 to 8 p.m.: Looting and rioting begin in earnest. One of the first targets: Tom’s Liquor and Deli at Florence and Normandie. Demonstrators begin torching buildings in South-Central Los Angeles. The first fire call is received about 7:45 p.m.
7 to 8 p.m.: Police commanders order all officers to report for duty.
7 to 9 p.m.: Rioting erupts in Inglewood, prompting officials to declare a state of emergency.
7:30 to 8 p.m.: Los Angeles Unified School District announces plans to close schools in the affected areas.
8:45 p.m.: Mayor Tom Bradley calls a local state of emergency. Moments later, Gov. Pete Wilson, at Bradley’s request, orders the National Guard to activate 2,000 reserve soldiers.
About 9 p.m.: Bus service is shut down in portions of South-Central Los Angeles at the request of the LAPD. The restrictions eventually affect 27 bus lines throughout the area.
About 9 p.m.: The demonstration outside Parker Center turns violent as the crowd throws rocks, smashes windows and torches a kiosk. Other demonstrators vandalize several downtown buildings and snarl traffic on the Hollywood Freeway (101).
9:05 p.m.: The California Highway Patrol closes exit ramps off the Harbor Freeway (110) from the Santa Monica Freeway (10) junction to Century Boulevard to keep unsuspecting motorists from wandering into the path of violence. Eventually the closure is moved south, stretching from Martin Luther King Boulevard to Imperial Highway.
9:05 p.m.: The Federal Aviation Administration shifts the landing pattern of jetliners approaching LAX for safety reasons, after the LAPD notifies the FAA that a police helicopter was fired upon.
About 9:15 p.m.: About 200 to 300 demonstrators gathered at Hansen Dam Recreation Center in Lake View Terrace march to the nearby LAPD Foothill Division headquarters.
10:30 p.m.: Bradley issues a taped message to the residents of Los Angeles calling for peace. The message is broadcast later.
(From 3 p.m. Wednesday through midnight)
Deaths: At least eight
Injuries: Nearly two dozen people are admitted to the emergency room at Martin Luther King Jr./Drew Medical Center.
April 30, 1992
Midnight: Gov. Wilson holds a news conference announcing a state of emergency and plans to dispatch the National Guard and the California Highway Patrol. Just after midnight, three people are killed when their car, being chased by Beverly Hills police, hits a fire hydrant and overturns.
12:15 a.m.: Bradley signs an order enacting a curfew in the area most affected by the unrest.
Midnight to 3 a.m.: Three new fires per minute are reported, overwhelming the Los Angeles Fire Department.
About 8 a.m.: Nearly 2,000 National Guard troops are in place at area armories. They spend hours taking refresher courses and waiting for equipment, ammunition and deployment orders from local law enforcement officials.
9:30 a.m.: Bradley, flanked by Fire Chief Donald Manning and Police Chief Daryl F. Gates, holds a news conference on the violence rocking the city.
10:15 a.m.: Bradley expands the curfew to cover more of the area scarred by violence.
12 to 3 p.m.: The Rapid Transit District announces that all bus service will be suspended as of 6 p.m.
12 to 2:30 p.m.: The National Guard is officially deployed. By late afternoon, hundreds of troops take up positions in hot spots around the city.
1 to 6 p.m.: Smoke along Washington Boulevard becomes so thick that it impairs visibility of Blue Line train operators. Passengers are taken off the train and shuttled by bus from the 7th and Figueroa station to the station at Washington and Long Beach Avenue.
3:30 p.m.: U.S. Atty. Gen. William P. Barr announces that the Justice Department will resume its investigation into possible civil rights violations in the King beating.
5:10 p.m.: Wilson holds a news conference, carried live statewide, urging an end to violence and promising enough law enforcement to bring the trouble under control.
About 6:30 p.m.: Long Beach declares a state of emergency and imposes a 7 p.m.-6 a.m. curfew. But the move is not enough to protect a Department of Motor Vehicles office that is burned to the ground. Curfews are imposed in Carson, Culver City, Hawthorne, Hermosa Beach, Huntington Park, Inglewood, Pomona, San Fernando, Torrance and West Hollywood.
A countywide curfew is imposed from the Long Beach Freeway (710) in the east, the Santa Ana (5) and Santa Monica (10) freeways in the north, the San Diego Freeway (405) in the west and Lomita Boulevard in the south.
About 10 p.m.: Wilson takes a helicopter tour around the perimeter of the troubled area.
Just before midnight: Bradley and Wilson announce they have requested more National Guard troops to bring the Los Angeles County total to 6,000. They also ask the U.S. military to be placed “on alert.”
Throughout the day:
Thousands loot retail outlets in South-Central Los Angeles, Koreatown, Hollywood, Mid-Wilshire, Watts and Westwood as well as Beverly Hills, Compton, Culver City, Hawthorne, Long Beach, Norwalk and Pomona.
Long lines form at supermarkets and gas stations throughout the city as residents, fearing shortages, stock up.
Government offices, courthouses, libraries, shopping malls and many businesses are shut down for the day.
Cal State Los Angeles, Dominguez Hills and Northridge cancel classes. Final exams are postponed at USC.
The Los Angeles Unified School District expands its school closure to include every school and child-care center in the district.
Mail service is suspended to 14 ZIP Codes in the hardest-hit areas.
Professional sports teams cancel games, including the NBA playoff game between the Clippers and the Utah Jazz, and the matchup between the Dodgers and the Philadelphia Phillies.
A power outage leaves thousands of Angelenos in the dark.
(From 3 p.m. Wednesday through 11 p.m. Thursday)
Deaths: At least 25
Estimated damages: $200 million to $250 million
May 1, 1992
1:15 to 5:30 a.m.: Gov. Wilson and Mayor Bradley talk with President George H.W. Bush and other officials in Washington about deployment of federal troops.
7:15 a.m.: Officials announce that 3,000 to 4,000 federal troops and 1,000 riot-trained federal law officers will be sent to Los Angeles.
About 7:30 a.m.: Three LAPD officers are fired on by a sniper but are not seriously hurt.
Before 8 a.m.: Hundreds begin crowding South-Central Los Angeles post offices to get mail not delivered to their homes due to the crisis.
9:30 a.m.: Bradley announces that the dusk-to-dawn curfew will be expanded citywide. The directive also prohibits the sale of ammunition and the sale of gasoline except for automobiles.
11:45 a.m.: During a news conference with Patricia Sakai, administrator of the Small Business Administration, Bradley announces that Wilson will seek an official federal disaster declaration from Bush.
About 1 p.m.: More than 1,000 Korean Americans and others gather at a peace rally at Western Avenue and Wilshire Boulevard.
About 2 p.m.: Pomona declares a state of emergency and imposes a dusk-to-dawn curfew.
About 2:30 p.m.: Officials in Washington and Los Angeles announce that a federal grand jury has been convened and indicate that the Justice Department is likely to seek criminal indictments of the four officers involved in the King beating.
About 2:45 p.m.: Rodney G. King, the man whose videotaped beating created a national furor over police brutality, breaks his long silence to speak out about the violence inflicted in his name. In a brief emotional statement he asks: “People ... can all we get along?”
3 to 5 p.m.: About 4,000 federal troops, Marines and soldiers begin arriving at Marine Corps Air Stations in Tustin and El Toro.
By 6 p.m.: Most of the 6,000 National Guard troops sent to Los Angeles are deployed.
6 p.m.: Bush, speaking from the Oval Office, addresses the nation on the violence in Los Angeles and elsewhere. He announces that he will place 6,000 National Guard members under federal control.
7 p.m. to midnight: The curfew begins to take a heavy toll on area merchants, with some reporting $40,000 to $50,000 in losses per day.
Throughout the day:
Cleanup efforts begin along heavily hit Vermont Avenue and other areas, including the Mid-City, Mid-Wilshire and Hollywood sections.
In addition to Los Angeles, schools are closed in Beverly Hills, Compton, Inglewood, Long Beach, Lynwood, Paramount and Torrance.
Colleges and universities remain closed.
Many airlines cancel flights into LAX, and many travelers opt instead to use airports in outlying cities.
Up to 25,000 residents still are without electricity.
(From 3 p.m. Wednesday through 11 p.m. Friday)
Deaths: At least 40
Injuries: 1,419 (159 critical)
Estimated damages: $500 million to $550 million. About 3,100 businesses are affected by rioting or looting.
May 2, 1992
8 a.m.: The first of 6,000 alleged looters and arsonists are scheduled to begin appearing in court, but due to the volume of cases, arraignments don’t begin until midafternoon.
10 a.m.: Long Beach City Council meets in emergency session to report on violence there. The tally: one death, 334 injuries and nearly 300 businesses destroyed by fire.
11 a.m.: An estimated 30,000 people march for racial healing and in support of beleaguered merchants in Koreatown.
11:30 a.m.: Bradley announces that the citywide curfew will be in effect indefinitely.
4 p.m.: The first Marine Corps units arrive in Compton.
5:15 p.m.: Bradley names former Olympics organizer Peter V. Ueberroth to serve as the unpaid “czar” for the Rebuild L.A. effort. At the same news conference, Gov. Wilson announces that President Bush has declared Los Angeles a disaster area.
6:40 p.m.: Bradley signs an executive order prohibiting landlords from imposing late fees on renters unable to withdraw money from damaged banks.
Throughout the day:
Legions of volunteers armed with grit, gumption and cleaning supplies hit the streets. The effort attracts residents from all races and all segments of the county. People also pitch in to help direct traffic, hand out food and shuttle residents.
Authorities report no new major fires and few major riot-related criminal incidents for the first time since the violence erupted Wednesday.
County officials close an eight-mile stretch of beach in Venice and Playa del Rey.
More than 3,500 National Guard troops are on the streets, with 1,000 more in staging areas. Army and Marine forces remain largely in staging areas.
(From 3 p.m. Wednesday through 11 p.m. Saturday)
Deaths: At least 45
Injuries: 2,116 (211 critical)
Estimated damages: $550 million
With the official tally of 45 deaths, Los Angeles becomes the site of the most deadly U.S. riot in contemporary history.
May 3, 1992
6 a.m.: RTD resumes some service into South-Central Los Angeles during the day.
About 10:30 a.m.: The Rev. Jesse Jackson meets with leaders in Koreatown to urge an end to animosity between African American and Korean American communities.
10:45 a.m.: L.A. County Sheriff Sherman Block calls for federal prosecution of those who targeted Korean American merchants and beat a white truck driver during the unrest.
11:30 a.m.: Bradley announces that he is lifting the dusk-to-dawn curfew on Monday. He says he expects inquiries into LAPD and National Guard delays in responding to the crisis.
1 p.m.: Harbor Freeway (110) off-ramps are reopened.
4 p.m.: The number of inmates at the County Jail tops a record 25,000.
7:50 p.m.: National Guard members shoot a motorist they say was trying to run them down. The man, a Latino, dies at 10:05 p.m. It is the first use of deadly force by the Guard since troops’ arrival Thursday.
During the day:
Delivering homilies at churches throughout the area, including South-Central, Cardinal Roger M. Mahony urges looters to return stolen merchandise.
Ueberroth and Wilson take separate tours of riot-damaged sections of Los Angeles County.
Police acting on tips recover truckloads of looted merchandise.
Federal authorities announce that the FBI and U.S. attorney general’s office will investigate the torching of Korean-owned businesses and the attack on Denny, the truck driver.
The South Korean Foreign Ministry announces that its government will send a delegation to Los Angeles to seek reparation for Korean American merchants who suffered damage during the unrest.
Federal, state and local emergency officials announce that one-stop disaster-assistance centers will open by week’s end.
Many school districts, including Los Angeles, Inglewood and Beverly Hills, announce that classes will resume Monday.
Normal class schedules also are announced for USC and University of California campuses.
Democratic presidential hopeful Bill Clinton arrives in Los Angeles to meet with community leaders and to inspect the hard-hit areas.
Authorities say most of the 1,200 backup federal law enforcement officers will leave Monday.
Nearly 8,500 members of the Marines, Army and National Guard are posted throughout the county.
(From 3 p.m. Wednesday through 11 p.m. Sunday)
Deaths: At least 51
Injuries: 2,328 (228 critical)
Estimated damages: $717 million (excluding Long Beach)
Physicians for Reginald O. Denny, the truck driver beaten as an angry crowd and stunned TV viewers watched, announce that the 36-year-old man is making a “remarkable recovery.”
May 4, 1992
6 a.m.: The dusk-to-dawn curfew, imposed at the height of the rioting, ends. RTD resumes its full normal schedule citywide.
6:30 a.m.: Normal arrivals and departures resume at LAX.
7 to 10 a.m.: Los Angeles returns to work, school and the malls.
7 to 9 a.m.: Thousands queue up at state employment offices. Economists estimate that 20,000 to 40,000 people were put out of work when their places of business were looted or burned.
8 a.m.: White House officials announce that the federal government will make available $600 million--half in SBA loans and half in cash grants--to help repair damage.
The Bush administration also sends a team of officials to the city to assess needs.
11:15 a.m.: State Sen. Art Torres (D-Los Angeles) proposes a 1/4-cent sales tax boost to fund rebuilding and to generate funds for earthquake relief.
4:30 p.m.: Gov. Wilson meets privately with 16 California corporate executives, including representatives of four major financial institutions and three large supermarket chains.
During the day:
Bill Clinton and Republican presidential candidate Patrick Buchanan tour Koreatown.
Korean American business community leaders map a strategy for helping members recover.
Several financial institutions, including Bank of America, American Savings Bank, Wells Fargo, First Interstate and Glendale Federal, announce assistance programs for businesses and homeowners in areas damaged during the riots.
Despite mounting criticism, LAPD Chief Gates defends his conduct in planning and coping with the disturbance, particularly in its early stages.
Federal law enforcement experts sent to Los Angeles are sent home, as are many police officers and sheriff’s deputies from elsewhere in the Southland.
Aided by additional tips from residents, police continue to recover stolen merchandise.
Homicide detectives from the LAPD’s Rampart Division launch an investigation into the shooting death of a motorist killed Sunday after he allegedly tried to run down a Guard member.
(From 3 p.m. Wednesday through 11 p.m. Monday)
Deaths: At least 58
Injuries: 2,383 (228 critical)
Estimated damages: $717 million; 3,100 businesses affected by rioting or looting
In the months ahead, some deaths will be found not to be riot-related and the death toll will be adjusted to 54. The damage estimate will be adjusted to nearly $1 billion.
--- UNPUBLISHED NOTE ---
This and another April 29, 2002 story incorrectly referred to the April 1992 Los Angeles riots as the ‘deadliest in the 20th century.’ In 1921, a riot by a predominantly white mob in Tulsa resulted in the deaths of an estimated 300 black residents.
--- END NOTE ---