Rodney King's neighbors share their memories; autopsy results due in 4-6 weeks

The backyard swimming pool in Rialto where Rodney King was found dead early Sunday.
The backyard swimming pool in Rialto where Rodney King was found dead early Sunday.
Steven Cuevas/KPCC
The backyard swimming pool in Rialto where Rodney King was found dead early Sunday.
Rialto police officers and volunteers keep watch in front of Rodney King's home after he was found dead on June 17, 2012 in Rialto.
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

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Rialto police continue to investigate the circumstances surrounding the death of Rodney King. His fiancée found him early Sunday at the bottom of a swimming pool at his home.

The San Bernardino County Sheriff-Coroner Department conducted the autopsy Monday, according to a press release, but the determination of a cause of death was deferred pending toxicology and tissue studies.

The release added that there will be no final ruling on the cause of death until the test results have been received and reviewed, which could take up to four to six weeks.

The videotaped beating of King at the hands of LAPD officers 21 years ago helped to change the way many people viewed the criminal justice system and law enforcement. In Rialto, King led a private life — punctuated by brushes with the law.

The morning after King’s death, police officers maintained a presence outside his modest house, mainly to keep bystanders and reporters at a distance. That hasn’t kept several TV news satellite trucks from setting up across the street, or the occasional curiosity-seekers from driving past.

The house is quiet, its curtains drawn. No visible markers proclaim "this is where Rodney King died"; no candles, flowers or makeshift street memorials.

It apparently reflects the way King preferred to live, under the radar, after circumstance thrust him reluctantly into the spotlight more than 20 years ago.

The quiet Rialto neighborhood where King lived for over a dozen years is lined with modest single-story ranch houses, neatly manicured lawns and shade trees. King says he moved Inland partly to escape the unwanted attention that followed his videotaped beating in 1991, when King was 25 years old. Many people who saw it were convinced that the LAPD officers in that footage used excessive force — their acquittal the following year sparked widespread riots.

“He was a very nice guy," said Dick Landin, who lived next door to King. "He used to mow my lawn because I have a bad ankle. And he asked me questions about repairing his car and stuff like that. And then when he went somewhere he’d give me the key. He had some cats and stuff I’d take of. He lived there two years before I knew he even lived there.”

Landin said he could relate to the man next door because of his own battle with alcoholism and run-ins with the law.

“I told him I had a similar thing happen to me in Anaheim," Landin said. "They surrounded my with their guns drawn and I just told them to go ahead and shoot. I just came back from Vietnam.”

But settling into a quiet neighborhood did not bring peace to King. Neighbors don’t recall seeing his three daughters at the house.

Officers arrested him about half a dozen times after he moved Inland — most recently last year when they cited him for driving under the influence. But Landin said he only noticed obvious trouble at the house years ago when King would argue with a former girlfriend with whom he’s broken up since. The neighbor said that in recent years, after King got engaged, things appeared to settle down.

Other neighbors say that in the hours before King’s death, there was a loud late night party and then an early morning argument — possibly between King and his fiancée, Cynthia Kelley.

Bob Carlberg lives a couple of doors away. He told the Riverside Press-Enterprise he could hear the commotion down the block.

“It wasn’t like a fight, fight, fight," Carlberg said, "but yelling back and forth. For him it was unusual because he really kept to himself. The last couple weeks he’s had more people over, but I think that’s because he was planning his marriage and everything.”

Rialto police said Kelley called 911 when she found King submerged in the deep end of the swimming pool. Uniformed Rialto police officers who arrived about four minutes after the call pulled him out.

Randy De Anda is a captain and spokesman for the Rialto police.

“The officers immediately began CPR until Rialto paramedics arrived," said Captain Randy De Anda, spokesman for the Rialto police, "at which time Mr. King was transported to Arrowhead Regional Medical center in Colton, where he was later pronounced deceased at about 6:11 a.m."

Officials are treating the incident as an accidental drowning. Investigators say results of the autopsy should determine whether drugs or alcohol played a part in 47-year-old Rodney King’s death.

A public memorial will be held tonight in King’s honor at Leimert Park in Los Angeles. It starts at 6 p.m.

This story has been updated.