Rodney King’s Neighbors Speak On ‘Commotion’ and His Character

With the passing of race riot figure Rodney King, his neighbors reveal what they heard hours before his death and what kind of man he was.

By: Taren Vaughan

The senseless beating of Rodney King in 1991 by a group of LA police officers still to this day is a moment that causes suppressed rage to surface. The brutal act of violence that he endured resulted in the acquittal of officers and some of our history’s most destructive race riots that nearly dismantled the city of Los Angeles. Long after it all took place, Rodney King remained the face behind the fight against crooked cops and police brutality. And despite what people may have thought, he plainly said that he wouldn’t take back what happened to him that night.

In an interview he did with The Times, he said this:

“Yes, I would go through that night, yes I would. I said once that I wouldn’t, but that’s not true. It changed things. It made the world a better place.”

Tragically, King was found Sunday morning at the bottom of a pool at his home in Rialto by the police. Before they ever arrived to the scene however, his body was seen lying in the deep end of the pool by his fiancée Cynthia Kelly.

According to Rialto Police Capt. Randy DeAnda, shortly before she discovered his body at the bottom of the pool, King’s fiancée Cynthia Kelley had communicated with King through a sliding-glass door. A splash was heard by Kelley and she then came outside but did not jump in to retrieve King’s body from the water. And Capt. DeAnda goes on to further explain that she was “not a great swimmer,” and waited until the police came to pull him out of the pool.

King’s neighbor, 53-year-old Bob Carlberg, gave his description of what sounded like a small gathering in the backyard of King’s house hours before:

“Last night I heard a little bit of commotion. It wasn’t really like a fight-fight fight. Sort of yelling back and forth,”

“I couldn’t really make it out. The neighbors behind, I heard they were screaming at him to be quiet. About 4:30 a.m. or 5 o’clock, it kind of got quiet.”

Although Carlberg recalled what appeared to be a minor disturbance, he assured everyone that King was indeed a mild mannered neighbor:

“He’s one of the best neighbors in the neighborhood,”

“He did get into trouble. But that was Rodney.”

Another neighbor of his, 55-year-old Tondalaya Baker, shared her experience living near King and that her and her family never saw much of him:

“He was very quiet. Very withdrawn. The only time we saw him was when he was working in his yard … or coming and going.”

It remains unclear whether or not drugs or alcohol were involved in the incident, two things that King has struggled with for many years. Currently, evidence is still being gathered in relation to his passing.


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