A funeral has been held for Rodney King, the man who became famous after his 1991 beating by Los Angeles police officers, who was found dead at the bottom of the swimming pool at his home in Rialto, California on June 17.
King’s beating was captured on videotape and broadcast worldwide, along with photos of his bloodied and bruised face.
The Reverend Al Sharpton delivered King’s eulogy at Forest Lawn Hollywood Hills in Los Angeles on Saturday, and said that King never showed bitterness towards the officers who beat him.
“People should not be judged by the mistakes they make, but how they rise above them,” Sharpton said.
“Rodney had risen above his mistakes. He never mocked anyone – not the police, not the justice system, not anyone. He became a symbol of forgiveness.”
King’s death is being treated as an accidental drowning but authorities are awaiting autopsy results to determine the official cause of death.
A private service was held by family members earlier in the day, which was followed by a public memorial and burial.
At the public memorial, mourners surveyed newspaper clippings from 1991 and 1992 when King dominated headlines. A large photograph of a smiling King was set out on an easel.
Daughter Laura Dene King, 28, said she was proud to have had her father in her life for as long as she did, especially considering she almost lost him when she was six years old.
“I will remember his smile, his unconditional love,” she said.
‘Can’t we all get along?’
Several donors helped pay for the funeral, reception and other arrangements. Anthony Zuiker, creator of the CSI: series, donated $10,000, saying he wanted to show support for King’s family.
“We lost a symbol, but they lost a loved one,” said Zuiker.
Lawrence Spagnola, who co-authored King’s 2012 book, The Riot Within: My Journey from Rebellion to Redemption, sat with family members during the services.
Spagnola said the family should be proud of the “amazing degree of grace and wisdom” with which King carried himself after his infamous beating and subsequent media attention.
The images became a national symbol of police brutality and inflamed racial tensions across the country.
More than a year after the incident, four officers charged with felony assault for the beating were acquitted by a jury with no black members. The verdict sparked one of the most costly and deadly race riots in US history.
During the unrest, in which more than 50 people were killed and more than $1bn in property damage was caused, King famously pleaded: “Can’t we all get along?”.
Those famous words were embroidered on the lid of King’s casket, next to a portrait of him.
“He never asked if people would remember Rodney King. But he wondered if they would remember those words,” Spagnola said.
“I told him, ‘long after you’re gone, your words are going to live’. And I think he took some solace in that.”