Rodney King had been drinking and was on drugs when he plunged into a swimming pool and accidentally drowned in June, a coroner’s report released today concluded.
Mr King was the black motorist videotaped while being severely beaten by Los Angeles police officers in 1991. The officers’ acquittal triggered the devastating 1992 Los Angeles riot.
The report confirmed a previous police conclusion that Mr King died by accident, and the case will be closed, Rialto police Captain Randy DeAnda said.
“It concludes our investigation,” he said. “Basically, our investigation revealed the same conclusion and, now that we have the toxicology, it basically reinforces that.”
Mr King had fought a long struggle with addiction.
A call from his fiancee summoned police to his Rialto home at 5.30am on June 17. Officers pulled him from the bottom of the pool, and he was pronounced dead at a hospital.
Cynthia Kelley told authorities she was in bed when she was woken and saw Mr King at a patio door.
“She described him making grunting and growling sounds and having frothy secretions coming from his mouth,” the report stated.
When Mr King fell over a planter, Ms Kelley went for her mobile phone to call for help. She heard a splash and by the time she got to the pool, Mr King was face down in the deep end.
Ms Kelley could not swim and attempted to revive Mr King by prodding him with a pitchfork and hoe before authorities arrived, the report said.
The San Bernardino County Coroner’s report listed the cause of death as drowning “and the contributing cause was combined with ethanol (alcohol) and multiple drug toxicity”, Capt DeAnda said.
Toxicology tests showed that Mr King had a blood-alcohol level of .06 and amounts of PCP, cocaine and marijuana in his system, the captain said.
“Mr King 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,” Capt DeAnda said.
“Obviously, the effects of the drugs and alcohol combined precipitated some kind of cardiac arrhythmia, thus incapacitated Mr King, and he was unable to save himself.”
Arrhythmia is an irregular heartbeat.
The report details numerous injuries Mr King suffered over his lifetime, including several birdshot pellets which remained in his body after being shot in 2007 by a shotgun.
Mr King liked to skateboard and some of the injuries seen by medical examiners may have come from falls while playing, his brother, Zhan Paul King, told investigators.
Mr King’s death came just months after the 20th anniversary of the Los Angeles riot brought him renewed attention. In the intervening years he had struggled with substance abuse and had a string of arrests.
But, at the time, he had just published a book about his life and was upbeat.
“America’s been good to me after I paid the price and stayed alive through it all,” he told The Associated Press.
“This part of my life is the easy part now.”
It was an unusually positive view for a man who symbolised the problem of police brutality and had long since lost the 3.8 million US dollars he was awarded in a civil suit against the city over the beating.
Ms Kelley was a juror in the civil trial.
In March 1991, the then 25-year-old Mr King led authorities on a high-speed chase that ended on a darkened street.
He was stopped by four Los Angeles police officers who were videotaped striking him more than 50 times with batons, kicking him and shooting him with stun guns. He suffered 11 skull fractures, a broken eye socket and facial nerve damage.
A resident recorded the videotape the beating and it was played over and over for a year, inflaming racial tensions.
The officers’ trial, which was moved to the predominantly white suburb of Simi Valley, ended on April 29 1992. A jury with no black members acquitted three of the officers on state charges and a mis-trial was declared for a fourth.
Within hours Los Angeles was engulfed in violence and flames. Fifty-five people died, more than 2,000 were injured and more than 1 billion dollars of damage was done.
At the height of the rioting, Mr King made his famous plea for peace, saying: “Can we all get along?”