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The L.A. Riots: 25 years later by Los Angeles Times Staff

Author: Los Angeles Times Staff

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On the afternoon of April 29, 1992, a jury in Ventura County acquitted four LAPD officers of beating Rodney G. King. The incident, caught on amateur videotape, had sparked national debate about police brutality and racial injustice. The verdict stunned Los Angeles, where angry crowds gathered on street corners across the city. The flash point was a single intersection in South L.A., but it was a scene eerily repeated in many parts of the city in the hours that followed.

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May 25
Malcom Dublin (May 25 2017 3:03PM) : Did the police officers went to trial?
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May 25
Daniel WIlson (May 25 2017 3:03PM) : Was the jury all white people? more

Why were they all not guilty?

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May 25
brandon charles (May 25 2017 3:06PM) : Verdict more

i feel like us as people have been tired of the unjust actions and the lack of accountability for and by cops.And the La riots back in 1992 was just a show of our anger and frustrations since the 1700s. no equity and equality for so long builds up and this is what u get.

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May 25
abdelhameed nasr (May 25 2017 3:07PM) : king beating more

why would they beat him up for speeding cops should lean how to respect each other

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May 25
Malcom Dublin (May 25 2017 3:08PM) : How was the president back then was doing about this problem?
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May 25
Daniel WIlson (May 25 2017 2:52PM) : What does acquitted mean? more

What does acquitted mean?

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May 25
chanel culler (May 25 2017 3:00PM) : to be free from a criminal charge by a verdict of not guilty
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May 25
tashaya saunders (May 25 2017 2:46PM) : Why was the video not good enough? What did the jury think about the video?
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May 25
shaday collington (May 25 2017 2:52PM) : they have every right to be mad
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May 25
Tara Page (May 25 2017 2:53PM) : Not guilty verdicts more

This keeps happening. Sometimes cops are not even getting indicted, even when there is clear evidence of guilt (video footage). (Eric Garner, Terrence Crutcher, etc. etc)

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May 25
Dr. Adonis O' Neal (May 25 2017 2:55PM) : The Verdict of Rodney King case was very disturbing. more

I believe this is the start of the violence in L.A. The Verdict should of been Guilty instead of non guilty.

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May 25
chanel culler (May 25 2017 2:57PM) : If the beating wasn't recorded would people still have acted out?
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May 25
Keyara Flowers (May 25 2017 3:04PM) : I feel like violence is the only way people will care and listen.Im not happy but at the same time im ok on somethings on how the crowd hand expressing their emotions and feelings.
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May 25
shaday collington (May 25 2017 2:54PM) : what did they think they were going to accomplish by spreading the riots across the city?

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King beating

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(KTLA) Video shot by amateur cameraman George Holliday from the balcony of his Lake View Terrace apartment shows what appears to be a group of police officers beating a man with nightsticks and kicking him as other officers look on; the clip aired on KTLA.
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A seminal scene
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May 25
anwar wade (May 25 2017 2:54PM) : What did the government handle this situation?
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May 25
anwar wade (May 25 2017 3:04PM) : Do you think this case would be handled differently now
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Not guilty

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May 25
shaday collington (May 25 2017 2:55PM) : racist judge ignoring clear evidence smh.
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(KTLA)
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Sgt. Stacey C. Koon and Officers Laurence M. Powell, Theodore J. Briseno and Timothy E. Wind are acquitted of the March 3, 1991, beating of Rodney G. King. Jurors were not convinced that a 81-second videotape of the incident represented the entire story. The video, filmed by George Holliday, showed officers delivering repeated baton blows and kicks as King rolled on the ground. Its images have been seared into the minds of viewers the world over who have watched the tape broadcast repeatedly.

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May 25
Tara Page (May 25 2017 2:55PM) : Jurors thoughts more

What does it take to get a guilty verdict?

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May 25
Brianna Gravenhise (May 25 2017 2:58PM) : how are they not convinced based off a video that shows whats going on
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May 25
Niesha Morrison (May 25 2017 3:08PM) : How are the cops not found guilty more

Its not fair that a group of cops that were beating somebody like an animal and they get off scotch free

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Florence and Normandie

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A rioter attacks a car on Florence and Normandie avenues. (April 29, 1992)
A rioter attacks a car on Florence and Normandie avenues. (April 29, 1992) (Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times)
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May 25
shaday collington (May 25 2017 2:56PM) : what did they think was gonna change by assaulting people in their cars?
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May 25
Keyara Flowers (May 25 2017 3:09PM) : This image show vulge body language and i feel that antagonizing those people was not necessary.

Police respond to their first report of trouble at the intersection of Florence and Normandie avenues — beer cans being thrown at passing motorists — but quickly retreat and don’t return for almost three hours. The violence escalates and spreads to areas throughout the city.

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May 25
shaday collington (May 25 2017 2:57PM) : why were the police so scared? where did they go ? why didnt they do their jobs?
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Parker Center

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Early demonstrations in front of Parker Center. (April 29, 1992)
Early demonstrations in front of Parker Center. (April 29, 1992) (Rosemary Kaul / Los Angeles Times)
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May 25
shaday collington (May 25 2017 3:00PM) : biracial crowd shows that not only black people were outraged

Angry demonstrators begin gathering outside police headquarters and TV stations air scenes of violence near Florence and Normandie avenues. Police Chief Daryl Gates declares his officers are dealing with the situation “calmly, maturely, professionally.” He then drives to a Brentwood reception and fundraiser for the campaign against Charter Amendment F, a police reform ballot measure.

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May 25
Brianna Gravenhise (May 25 2017 3:03PM) : what do they expect to happen after convictions of such
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Flash point

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Rioters at the intersection of Florence and Normandie. (April 29, 1992)
Rioters at the intersection of Florence and Normandie. (April 29, 1992) (Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times)
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May 25
shaday collington (May 25 2017 3:02PM) : what was the point of destroying the community ? what did it achieve?
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Cameras televise gravel truck driver Reginald Denny being dragged from his cab and beaten nearly to death. By this point, the intersection of Florence and Normandie has been the scene of angry protests and violence for more than three hours. Beaten with a tire iron, a fire extinguisher and a brick, Denny is rescued by four strangers — two men and two women — who emerge from the crowd and drive his 18-wheeler to safety.

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May 25
Keyara Flowers (May 25 2017 2:58PM) : Its heart broken about what they did to Reginald Denny because he was a innocent bystander
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May 25
Tara Page (May 25 2017 2:59PM) : Reginald Denny more

I am amazed at how little anger Reginald had after he was almost beaten to death

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Gates returns

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Protesters kick in the windshield of a Jaguar parked on Main Street across from City Hall. (April 29, 1992)
Protesters kick in the windshield of a Jaguar parked on Main Street across from City Hall. (April 29, 1992) (Alan Duignan / Los Angeles Times)
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May 25
shaday collington (May 25 2017 3:03PM) : pointless violence.. if they wanted justice they should have went to the cops and did this to them

Daryl Gates, who had left LAPD headquarters hours earlier to attend a fundraiser in Brentwood, returns to the city’s Emergency Response Center between 8:30 and 9 p.m. Gates and Mayor Tom Bradley had not spoken to one another directly for more than a year before the unrest. The chief’s relationship with the City Council and the Police Commission was also strained.

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State of emergency

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Aerial view of fires burning out of control in the vicinity of Vermont and Vernon avenues. (April 29, 1992)
Aerial view of fires burning out of control in the vicinity of Vermont and Vernon avenues. (April 29, 1992) (Randy Leffingwell / Los Angeles Times)
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shaday collington (May 25 2017 3:03PM) : how didnt these fires kill more people?

Mayor Tom Bradley calls a local state of emergency. Moments later, Gov. Pete Wilson, at Bradley’s request, orders the National Guard to activate 2,000 reserve soldiers.

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May 25
Tara Page (May 25 2017 3:02PM) : City response more

Why did it take the police so long to respond and help?

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Harbor Freeway

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The California Highway Patrol closes the exit ramps off the Harbor Freeway from the Santa Monica Freeway junction to Century Boulevard to keep motorists from wandering into the path of violence.

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A call for calm

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A resident vainly attempts to fight a raging fire at 79th Street and Normandie Avenue using a garden hose. (April 29, 1992)
A resident vainly attempts to fight a raging fire at 79th Street and Normandie Avenue using a garden hose. (April 29, 1992) (Mike Meadows / Los Angeles Times)
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Bradley, in a grim televised address shortly after 11 p.m., says the city will “take whatever resources needed” to quell the violence. He says the city is receiving assistance from the county Sheriff’s Department, the California Highway Patrol and police and fire departments from neighboring cities. “We believe that the situation is now simmering down, pretty much under control,” Bradley says. “Stay off the streets. It’s anticipated that a curfew will be put into effect tomorrow night.”

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Curfew zone

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Bradley declares a sunset-to-sunrise curfew within the area bounded by Vernon Avenue on the north, the city limits on the east, Century Boulevard on the south and Crenshaw Boulevard on the west. The directive also prohibits the sale of ammunition and the sale of gasoline except for automobiles.

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Everyday life shattered

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At sunrise, a lone pedestrian walks by burned-out shell of a J.J. Newberry building at Vermont Avenue near 59th Street. (April 30 1992)
At sunrise, a lone pedestrian walks by burned-out shell of a J.J. Newberry building at Vermont Avenue near 59th Street. (April 30 1992) (Gary Friedman / Los Angeles Times)
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By sunrise, it is clear the riots have disrupted life across a wide path — from downtown to the Westside, from South Los Angeles to Pasadena. By day’s end, bus service is canceled citywide. Many employers tell workers to stay home. Mail delivery is halted throughout South Los Angeles. Professional baseball and basketball games are canceled. Schools are closed throughout L.A.— and in Inglewood, Compton and Lynwood.

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May 25
chanel culler (May 25 2017 3:03PM) : why would they ruin things they need?
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National Guard

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The National Guard’s 2,000 troops are in place at armories by 8 a.m., but not deployed until later that afternoon. Gov. Pete Wilson says police commanders were slow to decide how best to use the Guard.

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Curfew zone expands

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May 25
shaday collington (May 25 2017 3:05PM) : why didnt they institute the curfew earlier? why didnt the cops come earlier?
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Bradley expands the curfew zone to cover more of the area scarred by violence to the area bounded by Jefferson Boulevard on the north, Central Avenue on the east, Century Boulevard on the south and Crenshaw Boulevard on the West. The directive continues to prohibit the sale of ammunition and the sale of gasoline except for automobiles.

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National Guard deployed

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National Guard troops at Martin Luther King Boulevard and Vermont Avenue. (April 30, 1992)
National Guard troops at Martin Luther King Boulevard and Vermont Avenue. (April 30, 1992) (J. Albert Diaz / Los Angeles Times)
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Beginning around noon, the National Guard is officially deployed. By late afternoon, hundreds of troops take up positions in hot spots around the city.

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Citywide curfew

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Looking south on empty Harbor Freeway (110) from 3rd Street at 7:45pm. (April 30, 1992)
Looking south on empty Harbor Freeway (110) from 3rd Street at 7:45pm. (April 30, 1992) (Larry Davis / Los Angeles Times)
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May 25
Tara Page (May 25 2017 3:04PM) : Curfews in the U.S. more

How often have city governments declared a curfew in the past 5 years?

Bradley declares a citywide curfew. The directive continues to prohibit the sale of ammunition and the sale of gasoline except for automobiles.

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More Guard troops

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Mayor Tom Bradley, left, Gov. Pete Wilson and Police Chief Daryl Gates. (May 1, 1992)
Mayor Tom Bradley, left, Gov. Pete Wilson and Police Chief Daryl Gates. (May 1, 1992) (Julie Markes / Associated Press)
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Shortly before midnight, Bradley and Wilson announce they have requested more National Guard troops to bring the Los Angeles County total to 6,000. They also ask the U.S. military to be placed “on alert.”

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Peace rally in Koreatown

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Employees of California Market in Koreatown guard the store from the rooftop. (May 1, 1992)
Employees of California Market in Koreatown guard the store from the rooftop. (May 1, 1992) (Hyungwon Kang / Los Angeles Times)
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Scores of merchants from South Los Angeles to Mid-Wilshire to Koreatown arm themselves with shotguns and automatic weapons to protect against looters and firebombs. With the city still in turmoil more than a 1,000 Korean-Americans and others gather at a peace really at Western Avenue and Wilshire Boulevard.

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Pomona

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The city of Pomona declares a state of emergency and imposes a dusk-to-dawn curfew.

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Rodney G. King breaks silence

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Rodney G. King meets with reporters. (May 1, 1992)
Rodney G. King meets with reporters. (May 1, 1992) (Larry Davis / Los Angeles Times)
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Outside the office of his Beverly Hills attorney, hundreds of reporters gathered to hear Rodney G. King make a public statement in which he deplored the street riots and urged calm.

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Wearing a blue sweater, blue shirt, blue tie and blue slacks, he stepped into the swarm of reporters. Nervous and barely audible, his voice lost at times to the blasting sounds of helicopter rotors overhead, King asked “People, I just want to say … can we all get along? Can we get along?”

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May 25
chanel culler (May 25 2017 3:05PM) : Getting along with each other cant take back what happened but it's the better thing to do for themselves and for Rodney King
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More troops arrive

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A Marine convoy from Camp Pendelton moves up the I-5. (May 1, 1992)
A Marine convoy from Camp Pendelton moves up the I-5. (May 1, 1992) (Dave Gatley / Los Angeles Times)
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About 4,000 federal troops, Marines and soldiers begin arriving at Marine Corps Air Stations in Tustin and El Toro. By 6 p.m., most of the National Guard troops are deployed.

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Arraignments

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The first of 6,000 alleged looters and arsonists are scheduled to begin appearing in court, but due to the volume of cases, arraignments don’t begin until midafternoon.

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Peace march

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A peace march down 3rd Street.  (May 2, 1992)
A peace march down 3rd Street. (May 2, 1992) (Marissa Roth / For The Times)
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An estimated 30,000 people march for racial healing and in support of beleaguered merchants in Koreatown.

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Citywide curfew

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Bradley announces that the citywide curfew will be in effect indefinitely.

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Marines in Compton

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Marines at a staging area at Alameda and Elm streets in Compton. (May 3, 1992)
Marines at a staging area at Alameda and Elm streets in Compton. (May 3, 1992) (Karen Tapia / Los Angeles Times)
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The first Marine Corps units arrive in Compton.

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The Rev. Jesse Jackson

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Jesse Jackson comforts Charlotte McKoy. (May 2, 1992)
Jesse Jackson comforts Charlotte McKoy. (May 2, 1992) (Iris Schneider/Los Angeles Times)
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The Rev. Jesse Jackson meets with leaders in Koreatown to urge an end to animosity between African American and Korean American communities.

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Jackson, who arrived in Los Angeles on Thursday, traversed the city from dawn to midnight pleading for an end to violence and a renewal of hope.

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He met with a weary crowd at a post office at 43rd Street and Central Avenue, prayed with victims of the riots at an Inglewood hospital, preached in a predominantly white church in Pasadena and visited Praises of Zion, and many other African American churches.

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Curfew to be lifted

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Bradley announces that he is lifting the dusk-to-dawn curfew on Monday. He says he expects inquiries into LAPD and National Guard delays in responding to the crisis.

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Habor Freeway off-ramps reopen

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The Harbor Freeway off-ramps from Martin Luther King Boulevard to Imperial Highway are reopened. On the first night of the riots, the California Highway Patrol had closed the exit ramps off the Harbor Freeway from the Santa Monica Freeway to Century Boulevard. The closure was later moved south.

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Limited bus service resumes

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The RTD (Rapid Transit District) resumes some service into areas of South Los Angeles during the day. The lines that ran through this area had been canceled since April 30.

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Los Angeles returns to work

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Students cross the street on their way to classes at the Budlong Avenue Elementary School. (May 4, 1992)
Students cross the street on their way to classes at the Budlong Avenue Elementary School. (May 4, 1992) (Ken Lubas / Los Angeles Times)
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With their street corners still guarded by rifle-toting soldiers, Los Angeles residents return to work and school.

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Thousands queue up at state employment offices. Economists estimate that 20,000 to 40,000 people were put out of work when their places of business were looted or burned.

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Probe of police response

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Former FBI Director William H. Webster is appointed to direct an investigation of the Los Angeles Police Department’s heavily criticized response to the rioting, looting and violence that swept large areas of the city after the verdicts in the Rodney G. King beating case.

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Commission’s findings

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The findings of the commission headed by former FBI Director William H. Webster and Police Foundation President Hubert Williams center on a massive failure of LAPD and City Hall leaders to adequately plan for civil disorder prior to verdicts being handed down in the Simi Valley trial of officers accused of beating Rodney G. King.

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The investigation was ordered by the city Police Commission after a barrage of criticism that the LAPD’s sluggish response to the violence permitted rioting to spread to wide areas of the county. In all, more than 50 people died and nearly $1 billion in property was damaged.

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Damian ‘Football’ Williams convicted

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Damian Monroe Williams in court. (Dec. 7, 1993)
Damian Monroe Williams in court. (Dec. 7, 1993) (Associated Press)
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Damian Monroe Williams, convicted of throwing a brick that struck trucker Reginald O. Denny in the head during the opening hours of the Los Angeles riots, is sentenced to 10 years in jail — the maximum term — for that attack and for assaults on four other people at Florence and Normandie avenues.

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May 25
chanel culler (May 25 2017 3:07PM) : Why is he being convicted but the officer isn't ? the officer did more damage
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Koon and Powell guilty

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A federal jury returns guilty verdicts against Los Angeles police officers Stacey C. Koon and Laurence M. Powell for violating Rodney G. King’s civil rights. Officers Theodore J. Briseno and Timothy E. Wind are acquitted for their role in the March 3, 1991, arrest and beating.

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Koon and Powell sentenced

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Stacey C. Koon arrives at Federal Court for his sentencing. (Aug. 4, 1993)
Stacey C. Koon arrives at Federal Court for his sentencing. (Aug. 4, 1993) (Ken Lubas / Los Angeles Times)
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A federal judge orders Officer Laurence M. Powell and Sgt. Stacey C. Koon to spend 2 1/2 years in prison for violating Rodney G. King’s civil rights, a sentence far less than requested by prosecutors and one that brought the wrenching case to a controversial finale.

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Daryl F. Gates dies

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Daryl F. Gates in 1999.
Daryl F. Gates in 1999. (Perry C. Riddle / Los Angeles Times)
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Daryl F. Gates, the controversial chief of the LAPD whose tenure ran from 1978 to 1992, dies at his Dana Point home after a short battle with cancer. He was 83.

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Deaths during the L.A. riots

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More than 60 people lost their lives amid the looting and fires during the Los Angeles riots that ravaged the city over five days starting April 29, 1992. Ten were shot to death by law enforcement officials.

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Forty-four people died in other homicides or incidents tied to the rioting. By year’s end, Los Angeles had 1,096 homicides, a record. 1992 remains L.A.’s deadliest year. The exact number of people who died in the riots is open to debate, but The Times confirmed 63 victims.

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Rodney King dies at 47

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Rodney King in 2008.
Rodney King in 2008. (Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)
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Rodney King is found dead at the bottom of his swimming pool in Rialto.

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Sources: Times research

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Credits: Maloy Moore

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DMU Timestamp: May 12, 2017 15:53

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May 25
tashaya saunders (May 25 2017 2:48PM) : The riots were brutal and caused alot of damage int the town.
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May 25
tashaya saunders (May 25 2017 2:49PM) : How did Rodney King react after the verdict?
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May 25
anwar wade (May 25 2017 2:49PM) : what led up to this beating
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May 25
tashaya saunders (May 25 2017 2:50PM) : What were people thoughts when they were rioting?
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May 25
anwar wade (May 25 2017 2:51PM) : how did rodney king family react to this ?
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May 25
anwar wade (May 25 2017 2:52PM) : What happened to the judge?
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May 25
tashaya saunders (May 25 2017 2:53PM) : They said it was so called self defense because they were in fear of their lives.
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May 25
jada kittrell (May 25 2017 2:54PM) : why didn't the jury think the video was enough evidence to arrest the 4 police officers ?
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May 25
anwar wade (May 25 2017 2:55PM) : I wonder what those four officers did after they was founded not guilty
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May 25
jada kittrell (May 25 2017 2:55PM) : was this an example of a racial hate crime ?
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May 25
anwar wade (May 25 2017 2:57PM) : what happened if people was caught on the street during the curfew?
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May 25
Jahkym McMillon (May 25 2017 2:57PM) : The police department left the city to burn that day. They could have easily stopped this before it started.
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May 25
jada kittrell (May 25 2017 2:57PM) : why did the people of los angeles take the attack harder than rodney king ?
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May 25
anwar wade (May 25 2017 2:58PM) : How did the people get back their buisnesses?
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May 25
anwar wade (May 25 2017 2:59PM) : Did Rodney King sue the city?
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May 25
jada kittrell (May 25 2017 2:59PM) : how did rodney king's family feel about this brutal attack ?