RIALTO, Calif., June 17 (UPI) -- Rodney King, whose 1991 videotaped beating by police rocked Los Angeles, died in an apparent swimming-pool drowning Sunday, police said.
King, 47, was found around dawn at the bottom of the pool of his Rialto home by his fiancée and his death was being investigated as a possible drowning.
"His fiancee heard him in the rear yard," Police Capt. Randy DeAnda told CNN. The woman made the grim discovery and called 911. King was pulled from the water and pronounced dead at a hospital.
DeAnda said there were no preliminary signs of foul play; however an autopsy would be performed to determine the cause of death.
King's death closed out a significant chapter in U.S. race relations. The videotaped beating he received after a high-speed chase in Los Angeles in 1991 led to the watershed L.A. riots, which in turn caused a major shift in the way police performed their jobs.
"Rodney King was a symbol of civil rights and he represented the anti-police brutality and anti-racial profiling movement of our time," activist and commentator Al Sharpton said in a written statement. "It was his beating that made America focus on the presence of profiling and police misconduct."
King required five hours of surgery after being worked over by a group of LAPD officers following a car pursuit. The incident was videotaped by an onlooker and aired on national television.
A jury, however, acquitted four officers of excessive force and assault charges, sparking a riot that tore apart the predominantly black South Central neighborhood and eventually led to the resignation of hard-nosed police chief Daryl Gates. The officers' lawyers said the video did not show King being combative with the officers.
The riots included King's emotional appeal on television: "People, I just want to say, can we all get along? Can we get along?"
Gates' successors implemented a community policing strategy that has been credited with not only improving relations with the public but also reducing the crime rate in Los Angeles.
"History will record that it was Rodney King's beating and his actions that made America deal with the excessive misconduct of law enforcement," Sharpton said.