Why The 1992 Los Angeles Riots Had To Happen, Looking Back 25 Years Later [Opinion]

Twenty-five years ago, Los Angeles, California was full of racial tension, economic inequality, and complete chaos after a jury acquitted four police officers of beating Rodney King. Even after two and half decades, people are still trying to wrap their minds around why the 1992 riots happened. The riots led to 58 deaths and countless others injured and emotionally damaged. The six days demonstration cost $1 billion in damages and continue to affect the city to this day.


What Led To The Riots

When four white Los Angeles Police Department officers were cleared of all charges for violent (and videotaped) beating of Rodney King, the city came unglued. There was already a measurable amount of tension between the cops and the residents of Los Angeles. The officers not being handed a guilty verdict only made things much worse.

According to Daily News, before the four police officers’ trial, a 15-year-old African-American girl, Latasha Harlins was shot by a Korean store owner, which only added to the racial tension. Latasha’s murder happened just a few weeks after king’s brutal beating.


Soon Ja Du, the Korean store owner faced first-degree murder charges for Harlin’s murder, but the jury found her guilty of a much lesser charge — voluntary manslaughter. The Korean immigrant claimed that she suspected Latasha was trying to steal a $1.79 bottle of orange juice and that was why she shot the young girl in the head with a handgun. For many people in the community, her explanation didn’t make any sense. What’s more puzzling is why Soon Ja Du never served any prison time for the murder and was given only five years probation.

When the jury let the cops go free, after seeing how they brutally beat Mr. King, the black community couldn’t contain their anger and rage. The result was a six day Los Angeles riot that would kill 58 people and injured thousands.

How Did The Riots Begin?

The riots began in South Los Angeles with a brutal assault on white drivers in the area. Reginald Denny was pulled from his truck and violently attacked while the news camera via helicopters filmed the whole encounter.


The rioters became more and more agitated and violent and swept through the city, destroying businesses, homes, and the streets of L.A. The rioters became particularly violent towards Los Angeles police officers and blocked traffic in the streets and highways.

What Happened Next For Rodney King?

Mr. King sued the officers for millions of dollars, claiming they violated his civil rights. He won the lawsuit, and the officers were hauled off to serve a 30-month prison sentence.

Rodney had multiple encounters with law enforcement and struggled with his sobriety. He appeared VH1’s Celebrity Rehab and penned a memoir titled, The Riot Within, My Journey From Rebellion To Redemption.

In 2012, his girlfriend found Rodney at the bottom of his swimming pool. He was taken to a nearby hospital where they pronounced him dead.

According to Huffington Post, King’s cause of death was an accidental drowning. However, the troubled man was under the influence of cocaine, Marijuana, and alcohol at the time of his death. The medical examiner believed that he slipped and fell in the pool, but he couldn’t get out of the water because he was heavily intoxicated.


Former President George H.W. Bush visited the area in May of 1992. He blamed the Los Angeles Riots on a failure social welfare program and vowed to put better programs in place for those living in poverty.

The riots brought awareness for the black community. It put them in the spotlight and forced the country to “deal with” the racial division and unfairness that plagued Los Angeles in the 1990s.


Do you remember the Los Angeles riots in 1992?

[Featured Image by Paul Sakuma/AP Images, File]