Police Lights

On March 3, 1991, a car pursuit that went almost eight miles came to an end in Hansen Dam Park. A California Highway Patrol trooper was attempting to stop the white Hyundai, allegedly, for speeding. Ultimately, there were several Los Angeles Police Department vehicles and a helicopter involved in the chase.

Brutal Beating Caught on Tape

The driver was later identified as Rodney G. King, and there were two passengers in the car. King didn’t obey orders from an LAPD sergeant to get out of the car and lie on the ground. Three other officers tried to force King to get down, but he resisted. For this, he was shot twice with a Taser.

Unknown to the officers, a man across the street was videotaping the incident. King got up after he was Tasered and ran toward one of the officers, who struck King with his baton and knocked him to the ground. As King attempted to get up, that same officer and one other repeatedly struck King with their batons. The officer that originally struck King hit him on the chest until he rolled over. Another officer stepped on King’s neck or upper back. The attack continued until King was eventually arrested when he put his hands behind his back.

King suffered multiple facial fractures, a broken leg and many bruises. The officers who wrote the report downplayed the violence -– they weren’t aware someone had taped the incident.

Verdict in Police Brutality Case Leads to Rioting, Deaths and Looting

A local TV station bought the tape and sold it to CNN. King was released with no charges, but four LAPD officers were charged with excessive use of force by a police officer and assault with a deadly weapon and two were also charged with filing false reports.

The mostly white jury found the officers not guilty except on one count of assault that ended in a hung jury. That verdict resulted in rioting in Los Angeles, as well as over 50 deaths and 2,000 injuries. Almost $1 billion in property was destroyed. The rioting ended when military troops and federal officers arrived.

Excessive Force by Police Can Lead to Lawsuit

A police officer can only use force when the situation justifies it. When excessive force is used, victims have a right to seek damages for their injuries. A federal Civil Rights Act claim may also be warranted.