The late Rodney King became an international icon after Los Angeles police officers savagely beat him in 1991 with metal batons following a high-speed chase. It was all captured on video by a nearby resident, and the footage transfixed a nation when it was aired over the nightly news. Nearly 13 months later, on April 29, 1992, the city erupted in anger when four white officers were acquitted of the beating. Rioters stormed fiery streets. More than 50 people died, scores were hospitalized and hundreds of businesses and homes were destroyed during the unrest, which lasted three days. King, who had been drinking when he fled police, became known for his haunting plea to end the violence: "Can we all just get along?"
King died June 17, 2012 at the age of 47 in Rialto, Calif. Earlier this year he was the author of a new book with Lawrence J. Spagnola, The Riot Within: My Journey From Rebellion to Redemption. He had been a cast member of VH1's second season of Celebrity Rehab, a popular TV show hosted by Dr. Drew Pinsky, and he tried his hand as a record company executive as head of the now-defunct Al-Ta-Pazz Records.
Gates, who started as the city's hard-nosed police chief in 1978, was called upon to resign by Mayor Tom Bradley in April 1991, after the videotape of the beating became a national sensation. Gates would hold on to his position until two months after the riots.
After leaving the LAPD, Gates was a busy man who, according to the New York Times, "published a well-received, best-selling memoir, Chief: My Life in the L.A.P.D., worked briefly as a radio talk-show host, founded a private investigations firm, made film and television appearances" and more. He was also unapologetic about his department's failures during the riots: "Clearly that night we should have gone down there and shot a few people," he said. "In retrospect, that's exactly what we should have done. We should have blown a few heads off." Gates died in 2010 at the age of 83.
Who knows what Rodney King's fate would have been if Holliday had not grabbed his video camera, rushed to his balcony and started filming when he was jolted awake by police sirens. After his footage was rebuffed by the L.A. Police Department, he turned to the local television station KTLA. The grainy video has become a fixture on newscasts across the globe.
Holliday, a plumber who emigrated to the U.S. from Argentina to escape the turbulence of his homeland, has shunned the spotlight for the most part. He and a partner have a Web site to license the video of the beating.
Smith was the sole performer in the acclaimed 1994 play Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992 — an epic study of neighborhoods on fire, a city in turmoil and a country upended by the violent images, live and in color, coming over the nightly airwaves.
Smith, who played Nancy McNally, national security adviser, on NBC's The West Wing, can now be seen on Showtime's hit series Nurse Jackie. But her work in the theater has been a central part of her artistic life. Her most recent work, Let Me Down Easy, deals with the subject of health care. It ran for six months at New York's Second Stage Theater, and then toured for nine months around the U.S.
Du, a Korean American grocer in Los Angeles, fatally shot 15-year-old Latasha Harlins in the back of the head after an verbal altercation over a $1.79 bottle of orange juice. The killing occurred two weeks after the Rodney King beating. Du was convicted of voluntary manslaughter, but her sentence — the 16 years in prison recommended by the jury was reduced to probation and community service by a judge in November 1991 — enraged the city's black community and contributed to the unrest sparked by the verdict in the King beating trial.
The store was destroyed in the riots and never reopened. Du, 71, lives in the San Fernando Valley, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Shortly after a jury found the four police officers not guilty, eyes were glued to television sets as truck driver Denny — taped from above by a news helicopter — was dragged from his truck and beaten nearly to death by a group of black men. He suffered nearly 100 skull fractures and underwent years of physical therapy.
At 56, he works as a boat mechanic in Lake Havasu, Ariz., and "he's getting along somewhat," a family member told the Los Angeles Times.
Williams was one of the "L.A. Four," the first group of men charged with the assault on Denny. He was arrested nearly two weeks after the attack. Nineteen years old at time, he was fingered as the man who smashed Denny's head with a brick. He was convicted and served four years of a 10-year sentence.
After he was released from prison for the Denny assault, Williams was arrested and convicted of aiding in a murder at a drug house in 2000 and sentenced to 46 years to life. He's now 39 and serving time in Calipatria State Prison.
Los Angeles residents were glued to their televisions as the journalist's live coverage of the attack on trucker Reginald Denny at the intersection of Florence and Normandie Avenues aired. Tur made history as he reported while flying over the intersection in a helicopter.
Tur, who tracked down O.J. Simpson during the infamous car chase in 1994, recently appeared as a guest on Dr. Drew Pinsky's HLN show on CNN to discuss parallels between Rodney King and Trayvon Martin. He speculated that civil unrest could have occurred had George Zimmerman not been arrested and charged.
Bradley, the Los Angeles' first black mayor, was accused of intensifying the volatile situation in his city when, after the verdict, he said, "Today that jury asked us to accept the senseless and brutal beating of a helpless man," according to Time magazine. While he never apologized for the statement, he decided not to run for a sixth term after the riots.
Bradley suffered a stroke in 1996 and died in 1998 at the age of 80.
On April 29, 1992, when Stacey Koon, Laurence Powell, Theodore Briseno and Timothy Wind were acquitted of criminal charges in the beating of King, the simmering rage of many of L.A.'s black residents boiled over, resulting in the deadly and devasting riots. Powell, who was the officer seen delivering the majority of the 56 baton blows during the 81 seconds of video, and Koon were later convicted of federal civil rights violations and served 30 months in prison.
Koon's lawyer told the Los Angeles Times that the 61-year-old doesn't talk about his personal life because of continued death threats. Powell, 49, lives in San Diego County, while property records suggest Briseno lives in Illinois. Wind, who was fresh out of the police academy during the 1991 beating, served as a police officer in Culver City before going to law school. The 51-year-old graduated in 2003 and lives in Kansas.
The filmmaker made headlines when he tried to use footage of the beating in his Malcom X film, but was held up in court by Holliday. Just a few years prior, in 1989, his Do the Right Thing debuted in theaters and highlighted the racial and ethnic tensions in America, much like the L.A. riots.
Lee has continued to make acclaimed (and sometimes not acclaimed) films over the last 20 years, and he's also continued to make headlines. Most recently, he had to publicly apologize to an elderly Florida couple after mistakenly retweeting their address to his followers. He thought it was the address of George Zimmerman.
The beating of Rodney King and the killing of Latasha Harlins sparked a renaissance period in hip-hop in Los Angeles. In response to the incidents, Ice Cube, who was a member of N.W.A, wrote "We Had to Tear This Mother***** Up" and "Black," which became expressions of anger for urban youth at the time.
He is a record producer, actor, screenwriter and director. The native of Compton, Calif., wrote the screenplay for and starred in the cult classic 1995 comedy Friday. Last year, he announced that he was making the final sequel, called Last Friday. He has worked as a producer of the Showtime television series Barbershop and the TBS series Are We There Yet? based on his hit family film of the same name.