To be fair, anyone that has seen the exploits of this guy in the news knows that he was far from a saint. He had more than his share of bad luck even after the beatdown, but at least he was always around to bounce back Not anymore.
Yes I do realize it is a misstatement to say that his beating is what set off the riots. Technically, it was the acquittal of the crooked cops that really sparked the upheaval. But his situation led to that moment. No one outside of a small corner of L.A. knew who Rodney King was before that happened. Now, over 20 years later, you would be hard-pressed to find someone who doesn't know his name.
When I first heard the news of him being found in a swimming pool, I automatically assumed it was an accidental death due to him trying to mix drinking and swimming. Maybe even drugs. I hate that that negative stereotype popped into my head, but that's the type of image he had crafted for himself in the years following that incident. He continued to have run-ins with the law and even had a stint on a rehab show.
The thing is no one in their right mind was trying to hold King up as a role model. It wasn't like he was the spokesperson for police brutality. What he was was the straw that broke the camel's back in that area. Police brutality had been going on for quite a while even before that incident. Anyone that listened to NWA records could tell you that. It's just that someone with a video camera-- in an era before they were as commonplace as video devices are now --happened to be at the right place at the right time. King just happened to be the unfortunate recipient of that current brutality.
It's ironic that King should meet this untimely end while the dirty cops involved with his case all continue to live fruitful lives. Too bad we couldn't have been reading about how their lives were destroyed. Sometimes karma doesn't always work out the way you want it though. Or maybe it's that it takes it own sweet time.
Rest in peace, Rodney.