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Remembering the 1992 LA Riots with Off-Ramp

by John Rabe | Off-Ramp®

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Fire fighters pour water on burning stores during the riots on April 30, 1992. A police car is in the foreground. Gary Leonard/LAPL

On this date in 1992, the LA Riots started when the Rodney King verdict was announced. In 2012, Off-Ramp aired a special edition looking back at the event on the 20th anniversary.

One of the things I'm most proud of is the time we spent setting the context for the riots, in particular the culpability of the LAPD.

As Joe Domanick reminded us, the riots didn't happen just because the cops were cleared of beating Rodney King, they happened because the department had killed scores of unarmed black and brown men with impunity for years (often with choke holds), and the verdict touched off long-simmering and justifiable anger.

And, Domanick said, they happened because Daryl Gates was derelict and did not prepare the department for the violence everyone else expected would erupt. He sent shifts home (and went to a political fundraiser!) while TV stations brought in extra staff.

We also talk with many Angelinos who remembered the day: a then-6-year old who lived in the neighborhood and now works at KPCC; Wait Wait Don't Tell Me host Peter Sagal, who ran into Gates during the riots; former Mayor James Hahn, who only missed being a casualty because he happened to turn on the radio and hear about what was going down at Florence and Normandie; and many others.

We also put together a slideshow of Gary Leonard's photos from the riots.

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