Report of the Independent Commission on the Los Angeles Police Department
‘Daryl Gates: A Portrait of Frustration’
“I have a memory as long as forever.”
—Daryl F. Gates
Rodney Glenn King is a big man—225 pounds draped uneasily over a six foot, three-inch frame. His curriculum vitae is not uncommon in the black neighborhoods of Los Angeles. He has a reading disability, is a high-school dropout (six months before graduating from John Muir High in Pasadena), is married (wife Crystal and two sons), is an unemployed construction worker, and a jailbird. In November 1989, Rodney King robbed a Korean grocer in Monterey Park of $200 (his weapon was a two-foot-long tire iron), and was caught ten days later because the grocer was able to write down the license number of his white Hyundai as he drove away from the scene of the crime. Rodney King was arrested, pleaded guilty to robbery two, and as a first offender was sentenced to two years in the state penitentiary at Susanville, one of the lesser of the twenty-three California slammers, but still no country club.
With time off both for time served and for good time (one day off the sentence for every good day served; a good day, considering the overcrowded state of California’s prisons—84,000 inmates in a system with room for 48,000
Shortly after midnight—it was now March 3—a husband-and-wife team of California Highway Patrol (CHP) officers, Melanie and Timothy Singer, saw the Hyundai traveling at a high rate of speed, upward of 100 mph. Turning on their siren and emergency lights, the Singers gave chase, first on the freeway and then on the surface streets of Pacoima. Mistakenly afraid (as he later claimed) that a speeding bust was a parole violation that could send him back to prison, Rodney King ran a series of red lights on Foothill Boulevard and did not slow down. By now two patrol cars from the Foothill Division of the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) had joined the pursuit, which continued until Rodney King finally pulled to a stop at a red light in Lake View Terrace, at the corner of Foothill and Osborne, across from the Mountain Back Apartments. One of the LAPD cars radioed “Code 6,” indicating that the chase had concluded. Following “felony …
This article is available to online subscribers only.
Please choose from one of the options below to access this article:
Purchase a print premium subscription (20 issues per year) and also receive online access to all all content on nybooks.com.
Purchase an Online Edition subscription and receive full access to all articles published by the Review since 1963.