Rodney King found dead

Last Updated 3:22 p.m. ET

(CBS/AP) RIALTO, Calif. - Rodney King, the black motorist whose 1991 videotaped beating by Los Angeles police officers became the touchstone for one of the most destructive race riots in the nation's history, was found at the bottom of his swimming pool early Sunday and later pronounced dead. He was 47.

The 1992 riots, which were set off by the acquittals of the officers who beat King, lasted three days and left 55 people dead and more than 2,000 injured.

Rialto Police Capt. Randy De Anda told KNX Newsradio that about 5:25 a.m. on Sunday, the police department received a 911 call from King's fiancee who reported that he was found in the bottom of his swimming pool.

"Rialto police officers responded to the location and removed him from inside of the pool and began CPR," De Anda said. "The Rialto Fire Department paramedics responded and transported Mr. King to the Arrowhead Regional Medical Center, where he was later pronounced dead at 6:11 a.m.

Capt. De Anda said King had been by the pool throughout the early morning and had been talking to his fiancee, who was inside the home at the time, adding that Rialto police are conducting a drowning investigation.

Preliminary information showed no signs of foul play, he said.

Investigators will await autopsy results to determine whether drugs or alcohol were involved, but De Anda said there were no alcoholic beverages or paraphernalia found near the pool.

Authorities didn't identify the fiancee. King had earlier announced he was engaged to Cynthia Kelley, one of the jurors in the civil rights case that gave King $3.8 million in damages.

King, a 25-year-old on parole from a robbery conviction, was stopped for speeding on a darkened street on March 3, 1991. He was on parole and had been drinking — he later said that led him to try to evade police.

Four Los Angeles police officers hit him more than 50 times with their batons, kicked him and shot him with stun guns.

George Holliday, a plumber, was awakened by the traffic stop outside his home and recorded the encounter with a video camera. He turned a copy over to a TV station. It was played over and over for the following year, inflaming racial tensions across the country and leading to charges against the police officers.

This March 3, 1991 image taken from video by George Holliday in Los Angeles shows the Rodney King beating.
AP Photo/George Holliday/KTLA

It seemed that the videotape would be the key evidence to a guilty verdict against the officers, whose trial was moved to the predominantly white suburb of Simi Valley, Calif. Instead, on April 29, 1992, a jury with no black members acquitted three of the officers on state charges in the beating; a mistrial was declared for a fourth.

Anger over the decision sparked a riot that left dozens dead and swaths of Los Angeles on fire.

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Violence erupted immediately, starting in South Los Angeles. Police, seemingly caught off-guard, were quickly outnumbered by rioters and retreated. As the uprising spread to the city's Koreatown area, shop owners armed themselves and engaged in running gun battles with looters.

During the riots, a white truck driver named Reginald Denny was pulled by several black men from his cab and beaten almost to death. He required surgery to repair his shattered skull, reset his jaw and put one eye back into its socket.

During a news conference at the time of the riots, King poignantly pleaded, "Can we all get along? Can we get along? Can we stop making it horrible for the older people and the kids?"

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