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Rodney King's death investigated as accidental drowning (updated)

Rodney King

Robert Sullivan/AFP/Getty Images

File: Rodney King, the Los Angeles motorist whose beating by police was captured on videotape, smiles, May 1, 1992 in Beverly Hills, during a press conference, where he called for the end of violence in the city.

Rodney King, whose violent encounter with Los Angeles police played a role in sparking the 1992 L.A Riots, was found dead Sunday, his publicist confirmed to KPCC. Rialto police responded to a 5:25 a.m 911 call and found King dead at the bottom of a pool. An autopsy is scheduled to be performed Monday morning.

The death is being investigated as an accidental drowning, according to Rialto police spokesperson Dave Shepard. King's fiancé, Cynthia Kelley, had been talking to King through a sliding glass door at the house, and a short time later she heard a splash and ran out. 

Rialto Police Capt. Randy De Anda told KPCC that Kelley tried to save him, "however she is not a good swimmer" so she called 911. The first responders performed CPR, but were unable to revive him, and King was later declared dead at a hospital.

Anda said there were no signs of paraphernalia or alcoholic beverages and no obvious signs of trauma. King had actually been known for his love of the water.

"She is holding together," Shepard said of Kelley at a press conference this afternoon. "She's being very cooperative with detectives." Kelley is not being considered a person of interest in her fiancé's death. 

Neighbors told the Times there had appeared to be a small gathering, which grew loud, going on late into the night and early morning at the house. The neighbor told the Times she heard sobbing coming from the property around 3 or 3:30 a.m., and then a splash several hours later. The commotion, neighbors said, was unusual for King's residence, which was typically quiet.

One neighbor told KPCC she didn't hear anything around the time King is thought to have drowned. Arnita Dennis said she was up unril around 6 a.m. Sunday morning.

 “I mean, if you know if you can’t swim, screaming would have been a natural reflex," she said. "And if neighbors would have heard her screaming you would think that somebody would have run out to see what was going on.”

Police plan to follow up with an autopsy first thing Monday morning. They say they're investigating whether King's death could have been a suicide. Based on information from the fiancé, they say that’s unlikely. They also say there's no sign of foul play.

King, along with the city, had recently marked the 20th anniversary of the riots. In April, KPCC published an interview with King, in which he said he wanted to be remembered as the person who uttered that long-remembered phrase "Can we all get along?" as the riots were in full swing: "Understand that we all can get along," he told KPCC recently. "It will always be my saying and that's how I want to be remembered."

Civil rights leaders, and people who knew and worked with King, are reacting to his Sunday morning death with shock and sadness, and also remembering King's place in history.



• How King wanted to be remembered

• Reactions: 'This is not something you'd expect'

• The L.A. Riots 20 years later

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