Joe Klamar/AFP/Getty Images
Rodney King gestures prior to the presentation of his autobiographical book 'The Riot Within...My Journey from Rebellion to Redemption' at the Eso Won Book Store in Los Angeles, California, on April 30, 2012.
"Rodney King was the victim of one of the worst police brutality beatings in history," said Project Islamic Hope Director Najee Ali. "His struggles along the way were well documented, but in the end we view him as a community hero who always fought back against his personal demons."
King was pronounced dead early Sunday after Rialto police pulled the 47-year-old from the bottom of his backyard swimming pool. According to various reports, neighbors were both sad and skeptical of King's sudden death.
Neighbor Angelica Rodriguez told the San Bernardino Sun that King would sometimes walk the neighborhood and ask for money. "It's so sad, what they did to him and now this," she said.
"He was a very private person, but I stayed in touch with him," friend Johnnie Kelley told The Sun. "It's just hard for me to believe he died while swimming. He was a real good swimmer and loved to swim."
Rialto resident Cory Hudson said to the Los Angeles Times that he was shocked by the news.
"I turned on the news and I heard [that King was dead]. Man, it's just devastating," he said. "It's just sad. I feel bad for all the family members. It's been rough. I mean, he was just getting his life together."
Police are treating his death as an apparent drowning and there are no signs of foul play, but Capt. Randy De Anda said autopsy results would be needed to determine whether drugs or alcohol were a factor. King's struggle with alcoholism led to multiple encounters with law enforcement. The autopsy is set for Monday.