SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. — Rodney King had been drinking and was on drugs when he plunged into a swimming pool and accidentally drowned in June, a coroner’s report released Thursday concluded.
“It concludes our investigation,” he said. “Basically, our investigation revealed the same conclusion, and now that we have the toxicology, it basically reinforces that.”
King, whose videotaped beating by Los Angeles police in 1991 led to a trial and deadly rioting upon the officers’ acquittal, had long struggled with addiction.
A call from King’s fiancee brought police to his Rialto home at 5:30 a.m. on June 17. Officers pulled him from the bottom of the pool, and he was pronounced dead at a hospital.
Cynthia Kelley told authorities she was in bed when she was awakened and saw King at a patio door.
“She described him making grunting and growling sounds and having frothy secretions coming from his mouth,” the report states.
The San Bernardino County coroner’s report listed the cause of death as drowning “and the contributing cause was combined with ethanol (alcohol) and multiple drug toxicity,” Capt. DeAnda said.
Toxicology tests showed that King had a blood alcohol level of .06, below the DUI intoxication threshold. However, he also had amounts of PCP, cocaine and marijuana in his system, the captain said.
“Mr. King was in a state of drug- and alcohol-induced delirium at the time of the terminal event and either fell or jumped into the swimming pool,” Capt. DeAnda said. “Obviously, the effects of the drugs and alcohol combined precipitated some kind of [heartbeat difficulties], thus incapacitated Mr. King, and he was unable to save himself.”
King’s death occurred just months after the 20th anniversary of the Los Angeles riot brought him renewed attention. In the intervening years, he had struggled with substance abuse and had a string of arrests. But, at the time, he had just published a book about his life and was upbeat.
“America’s been good to me after I paid the price and stayed alive through it all,” he told the Associated Press. “This part of my life is the easy part now.”
It was an unusually positive view for a man who symbolized the problem of police brutality and had long since lost the $3.8 million he’d been awarded in a civil suit against the city over the beating.
Ms. Kelley was a juror on the civil trial.