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George Holliday, man who caught Rodney King beating on video, has died at 61

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George Holliday, the Los Angeles plumber who shot grainy video of four white police officers beating Black motorist Rodney King in 1991, has died of complications of COVID-19, a friend said Monday.

Holliday, 61, died Sunday at a Los Angeles hospital, where he had been for more than a month,  Robert Wollenweber, a longtime friend and former coworker, told CBS News. A call to Holliday's brother wasn't answered, but the voicemail message said he couldn't answer because he was "mourning."

Holliday wasn't vaccinated and was on a ventilator in recent days after contracting pneumonia, Wollenweber told The Associated Press.

Holliday was awakened by a traffic stop outside his San Fernando Valley home on the night of March 3, 1991. He went outside to film it with his new video camera, catching the Los Angeles officers punching, kicking and using a stun gun on King, even after he was on the ground.

A year later, Holliday's out-of-focus footage - about 9 minutes worth - was a key piece of evidence at the four officers' criminal trial for assault and excessive use of force.

Obit King Beating Videographer
April 1997 file photo shows George Holliday pointing to the spot along a roadside in the Lake View Terrace section of Los Angeles where he videotaped Rodney King being beaten in April 1992, during a news conference in Los Angeles.  E.J. FLYNN / AP

When a jury acquitted all the officers on April 29, 1992, the city erupted in widespread violence. Hundreds of businesses were looted and destroyed over several days. Entire blocks of homes and stores went up in flames. More than 60 people died by shootings or other violence, mostly in South Los Angeles.

The uprising seemed to catch the rest of the nation by surprise, but longtime residents said tensions were building in South L.A. for years and the King verdict was just the tipping point.

On the third day of the riots, King went on TV to plead for calm, asking in a trembling voice, "Can we all get along?"

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This file photo of Rodney King was taken three days after his videotaped beating in Los Angeles on March 6, 1991. AP Photo/Pool

King sued Los Angeles over the beating and was awarded $3.8 million in 1994, but he told The AP in 2012 that he lost most of that money to bad investments. King drowned in his backyard swimming pool on June 17, 2012, at age 47.

Holliday's death was first reported by TMZ.com.

Holliday put the Sony camcorder he used to record the beating up for auction last July, with bidding starting at $225,000. It was unclear if it ever sold.

Holliday told The New York Times last year that he was still working as a plumber and never profited from the video.

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Rioters destroy an iron gate from a store in downtown Los Angeles on April 29,1992, hours after citywide rioting and looting broke out. The acquittal of four police officers in the beating of Rodney King led to widespread anger and rioting.  WADE BYARS/AFP/Getty Images

He said he had purchased the camera about a month earlier and he grabbed it instinctively when he was awakened by noise outside his window.

"You know how it is when you have a new piece of technology," he told the Times. "You film anything and everything."

Holliday said in 2017 that he was working on a documentary about his role in the King case, but it was unclear if anything ever became of that project. 

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