Just as Rodney King was back in the spotlight in late April for a positive reason, to promote a book of pre-riot insight into his troubled life and post-riot reflection, it all came to an end at the bottom of his backyard swimming pool in the pre-dawn hours on Father's Day. Rialto police received a call at 5:25 a.m. from King's fiancee, Cynthia Kelley. Officers arrived and pulled King from the swimming pool, then transported him to Arrowhead Regional Medical Center in Colton, California. King was pronounced dead at 6:11 a.m. of an apparent drowning.
During an afternoon news conference, Rialto police Capt. Randy De Anda said it was not unusual for King to go swimming in the early morning hours. De Anda said he did not see any alcohol containers or drugs by the pool, nor were there any obvious signs of foul play or trauma.
"We don't know the exact amount of time he was in the pool," said DeAnda, "but his fiancee said she did have a conversation with him, she went back inside and then heard a splash."
King, 47, was the person at the center of the Los Angeles police brutality case that ignited the Los Angeles riots 20 years ago. He was interviewed by media in late April / early May 2012 for the 20th anniversary of the controversial racial riots in L.A. His book, The Riot Within: My Journey From Rebellion to Redemption (King and Lawrence J. Spagnola; HarperOne; April 24, 2012)
Neighbors and onlookers gathered near the well-kept one-story house in the Inland Empire region of Southern California, about 60 miles east of Los Angeles, according to the local newspaper, The Sun.
Nearby Rancho Cucamonga resident Johnnie Kelley told a reporter he had been King's bodyguard from 1991 to 1995.
"He was a very private person, but I stayed in touch with him," Kelley told The Sun after stopping by the makeshift memorial outside King's house. "He was a good, kind-hearted person." It wasn't unusual for King to swim late at night while drinking, Kelley reportedly told The Sun.
"He was fighting the demons for years after the beating, and I guess alcohol was one of the ways he fought back," Kelley said. "It's just hard for me to believe he died while swimming. He was a real good swimmer and loved to swim."
The Rialto Police Department is conducting a drowning investigation. The San Bernardino County Coroner's Office will conduct an autopsy.