The L.A. Riots: 20 years later 1992 riots timeline

On the afternoon of April 29, 1992, a jury in Ventura County acquitted four LAPD officers of beating Rodney G. King. The incident, caught on amateur videotape, had sparked national debate about police brutality and racial injustice. The verdict stunned Los Angeles, where angry crowds gathered on street corners across the city. The flash point was a single intersection in South L.A., but it was a scene eerily repeated in many parts of the city in the hours that followed.

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  A seminal scene
  Friday
  Monday
  Postscript
  Saturday
  Sunday
  Thursday
  Wednesday

King beating

(KTLA)

Video shot by amateur cameraman George Holliday from the balcony of his Lake View Terrace apartment shows what appears to be a group of police officers beating a man with nightsticks and kicking him as other officers look on; the clip aired on KTLA.

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A seminal scene

Not guilty

(KTLA)

Sgt. Stacey C. Koon and Officers Laurence M. Powell, Theodore J. Briseno and Timothy E. Wind are acquitted of the March 3, 1991, beating of Rodney G. King. Jurors were not convinced that a 81-second videotape of the incident represented the entire story. The video, filmed by George Holliday, showed officers delivering repeated baton blows and kicks as King rolled on the ground. Its images have been seared into the minds of viewers the world over who have watched the tape broadcast repeatedly.

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Wednesday

Florence and Normandie

A rioter attacks a car on Florence and Normandie avenues. (April 29, 1992)
A rioter attacks a car on Florence and Normandie avenues. (April 29, 1992) (Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times)

Police respond to their first report of trouble at the intersection of Florence and Normandie avenues — beer cans being thrown at passing motorists — but quickly retreat and don’t return for almost three hours. The violence escalates and spreads to areas throughout the city.

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Wednesday

Parker Center

Early demonstrations in front of Parker Center. (April 29, 1992)
Early demonstrations in front of Parker Center. (April 29, 1992) (Rosemary Kaul / Los Angeles Times)

Angry demonstrators begin gathering outside police headquarters and TV stations air scenes of violence near Florence and Normandie avenues. Police Chief Daryl Gates declares his officers are dealing with the situation “calmly, maturely, professionally.” He then drives to a Brentwood reception and fundraiser for the campaign against Charter Amendment F, a police reform ballot measure.

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Wednesday

Flash point

Rioters at the intersection of Florence and Normandie. (April 29, 1992)
Rioters at the intersection of Florence and Normandie. (April 29, 1992) (Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times)

Cameras televise gravel truck driver Reginald Denny being dragged from his cab and beaten nearly to death. By this point, the intersection of Florence and Normandie has been the scene of angry protests and violence for more than three hours. Beaten with a tire iron, a fire extinguisher and a brick, Denny is rescued by four strangers — two men and two women — who emerge from the crowd and drive his 18-wheeler to safety.

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Wednesday

Gates returns

Protesters kick in the windshield of a Jaguar parked on Main Street across from City Hall. (April 29, 1992)
Protesters kick in the windshield of a Jaguar parked on Main Street across from City Hall. (April 29, 1992) (Alan Duignan / Los Angeles Times)

Daryl Gates, who had left LAPD headquarters hours earlier to attend a fundraiser in Brentwood, returns to the city’s Emergency Response Center between 8:30 and 9 p.m. Gates and Mayor Tom Bradley had not spoken to one another directly for more than a year before the unrest. The chief’s relationship with the City Council and the Police Commission was also strained.

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Wednesday

State of emergency

Aerial view of fires burning out of control in the vicinity of Vermont and Vernon avenues. (April 29, 1992)
Aerial view of fires burning out of control in the vicinity of Vermont and Vernon avenues. (April 29, 1992) (Randy Leffingwell / Los Angeles Times)

Mayor Tom Bradley calls a local state of emergency. Moments later, Gov. Pete Wilson, at Bradley’s request, orders the National Guard to activate 2,000 reserve soldiers.

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Wednesday

Harbor Freeway

The California Highway Patrol closes the exit ramps off the Harbor Freeway from the Santa Monica Freeway junction to Century Boulevard to keep motorists from wandering into the path of violence.

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Wednesday

A call for calm

A resident vainly attempts to fight a raging fire at 79th Street and Normandie Avenue using a garden hose. (April 29, 1992)
A resident vainly attempts to fight a raging fire at 79th Street and Normandie Avenue using a garden hose. (April 29, 1992) (Mike Meadows / Los Angeles Times)

Bradley, in a grim televised address shortly after 11 p.m., says the city will “take whatever resources needed” to quell the violence. He says the city is receiving assistance from the county Sheriff’s Department, the California Highway Patrol and police and fire departments from neighboring cities. “We believe that the situation is now simmering down, pretty much under control,” Bradley says. “Stay off the streets. It’s anticipated that a curfew will be put into effect tomorrow night.”

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Wednesday

Curfew zone

Bradley declares a sunset-to-sunrise curfew within the area bounded by Vernon Avenue on the north, the city limits on the east, Century Boulevard on the south and Crenshaw Boulevard on the west. The directive also prohibits the sale of ammunition and the sale of gasoline except for automobiles.

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Thursday

Everyday life shattered

At sunrise, a lone pedestrian walks by burned-out shell of a J.J. Newberry building at Vermont Avenue near 59th Street. (April 30 1992)
At sunrise, a lone pedestrian walks by burned-out shell of a J.J. Newberry building at Vermont Avenue near 59th Street. (April 30 1992) (Gary Friedman / Los Angeles Times)

By sunrise, it is clear the riots have disrupted life across a wide path — from downtown to the Westside, from South Los Angeles to Pasadena. By day’s end, bus service is canceled citywide. Many employers tell workers to stay home. Mail delivery is halted throughout South Los Angeles. Professional baseball and basketball games are canceled. Schools are closed throughout L.A.— and in Inglewood, Compton and Lynwood.

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Thursday

National Guard

The National Guard’s 2,000 troops are in place at armories by 8 a.m., but not deployed until later that afternoon. Gov. Pete Wilson says police commanders were slow to decide how best to use the Guard.

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Thursday

Curfew zone expands

Bradley expands the curfew zone to cover more of the area scarred by violence to the area bounded by Jefferson Boulevard on the north, Central Avenue on the east, Century Boulevard on the south and Crenshaw Boulevard on the West. The directive continues to prohibit the sale of ammunition and the sale of gasoline except for automobiles.

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Thursday

National Guard deployed

National Guard troops at Martin Luther King Boulevard and Vermont Avenue. (April 30, 1992)
National Guard troops at Martin Luther King Boulevard and Vermont Avenue. (April 30, 1992) (J. Albert Diaz / Los Angeles Times)

Beginning around noon, the National Guard is officially deployed. By late afternoon, hundreds of troops take up positions in hot spots around the city.

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Thursday

Citywide curfew

Looking south on empty Harbor Freeway (110) from 3rd Street at 7:45pm. (April 30, 1992)
Looking south on empty Harbor Freeway (110) from 3rd Street at 7:45pm. (April 30, 1992) (Larry Davis / Los Angeles Times)

Bradley declares a citywide curfew. The directive continues to prohibit the sale of ammunition and the sale of gasoline except for automobiles.

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Thursday

10 o’clock news

(KTLA)

KTLA news anchors detail the events of the day leading up to the nightly news cast.

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Thursday

More Guard troops

Mayor Tom Bradley, left, Gov. Pete Wilson and Police Chief Daryl Gates. (May 1, 1992)
Mayor Tom Bradley, left, Gov. Pete Wilson and Police Chief Daryl Gates. (May 1, 1992) (Julie Markes / Associated Press)

Shortly before midnight, Bradley and Wilson announce they have requested more National Guard troops to bring the Los Angeles County total to 6,000. They also ask the U.S. military to be placed “on alert.”

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Thursday

Peace rally in Koreatown

Employees of California Market in Koreatown guard the store from the rooftop. (May 1, 1992)
Employees of California Market in Koreatown guard the store from the rooftop. (May 1, 1992) (Hyungwon Kang / Los Angeles Times)

Scores of merchants from South Los Angeles to Mid-Wilshire to Koreatown arm themselves with shotguns and automatic weapons to protect against looters and firebombs. With the city still in turmoil more than a 1,000 Korean-Americans and others gather at a peace really at Western Avenue and Wilshire Boulevard.

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Friday

Pomona

The city of Pomona declares a state of emergency and imposes a dusk-to-dawn curfew.

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Friday

Rodney G. King breaks silence

Rodney G. King meets with reporters. (May 1, 1992)
Rodney G. King meets with reporters. (May 1, 1992) (Larry Davis / Los Angeles Times)

Outside the office of his Beverly Hills attorney, hundreds of reporters gathered to hear Rodney G. King make a public statement in which he deplored the street riots and urged calm.

Wearing a blue sweater, blue shirt, blue tie and blue slacks, he stepped into the swarm of reporters. Nervous and barely audible, his voice lost at times to the blasting sounds of helicopter rotors overhead, King asked “People, I just want to say … can we all get along? Can we get along?”

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Friday

More troops arrive

A Marine convoy from Camp Pendelton moves up the I-5. (May 1, 1992)
A Marine convoy from Camp Pendelton moves up the I-5. (May 1, 1992) (Dave Gatley / Los Angeles Times)

About 4,000 federal troops, Marines and soldiers begin arriving at Marine Corps Air Stations in Tustin and El Toro. By 6 p.m., most of the National Guard troops are deployed.

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Friday

Arraignments

The first of 6,000 alleged looters and arsonists are scheduled to begin appearing in court, but due to the volume of cases, arraignments don’t begin until midafternoon.

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Saturday

Peace march

A peace march down 3rd Street.  (May 2, 1992)
A peace march down 3rd Street. (May 2, 1992) (Marissa Roth / For The Times)

An estimated 30,000 people march for racial healing and in support of beleaguered merchants in Koreatown.

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Saturday

Citywide curfew

Bradley announces that the citywide curfew will be in effect indefinitely.

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Saturday

Marines in Compton

Marines at a staging area at Alameda and Elm streets in Compton. (May 3, 1992)
Marines at a staging area at Alameda and Elm streets in Compton. (May 3, 1992) (Karen Tapia / Los Angeles Times)

The first Marine Corps units arrive in Compton.

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Saturday

The Rev. Jesse Jackson

Jesse Jackson comforts Charlotte McKoy. (May 2, 1992)
Jesse Jackson comforts Charlotte McKoy. (May 2, 1992) (Iris Schneider/Los Angeles Times)

The Rev. Jesse Jackson meets with leaders in Koreatown to urge an end to animosity between African American and Korean American communities.

Jackson, who arrived in Los Angeles on Thursday, traversed the city from dawn to midnight pleading for an end to violence and a renewal of hope.

He met with a weary crowd at a post office at 43rd Street and Central Avenue, prayed with victims of the riots at an Inglewood hospital, preached in a predominantly white church in Pasadena and visited Praises of Zion, and many other African American churches.

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Sunday

Curfew to be lifted

Bradley announces that he is lifting the dusk-to-dawn curfew on Monday. He says he expects inquiries into LAPD and National Guard delays in responding to the crisis.

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Sunday

Habor Freeway off-ramps reopen

The Harbor Freeway off-ramps from Martin Luther King Boulevard to Imperial Highway are reopened. On the first night of the riots, the California Highway Patrol had closed the exit ramps off the Harbor Freeway from the Santa Monica Freeway to Century Boulevard. The closure was later moved south.

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Sunday

Limited bus service resumes

The RTD (Rapid Transit District) resumes some service into areas of South Los Angeles during the day. The lines that ran through this area had been canceled since April 30.

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Sunday

Los Angeles returns to work

Students cross the street on their way to classes at the Budlong Avenue Elementary School. (May 4, 1992)
Students cross the street on their way to classes at the Budlong Avenue Elementary School. (May 4, 1992) (Ken Lubas / Los Angeles Times)

With their street corners still guarded by rifle-toting soldiers, Los Angeles residents return to work and school.

Thousands queue up at state employment offices. Economists estimate that 20,000 to 40,000 people were put out of work when their places of business were looted or burned.

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Monday

Probe of police response

Former FBI Director William H. Webster is appointed to direct an investigation of the Los Angeles Police Department’s heavily criticized response to the rioting, looting and violence that swept large areas of the city after the verdicts in the Rodney G. King beating case.

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Postscript

Commission’s findings

The findings of the commission headed by former FBI Director William H. Webster and Police Foundation President Hubert Williams center on a massive failure of LAPD and City Hall leaders to adequately plan for civil disorder prior to verdicts being handed down in the Simi Valley trial of officers accused of beating Rodney G. King.

The investigation was ordered by the city Police Commission after a barrage of criticism that the LAPD’s sluggish response to the violence permitted rioting to spread to wide areas of the county. In all, more than 50 people died and nearly $1 billion in property was damaged.

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Postscript

Damian ‘Football’ Williams convicted

Damian Monroe Williams in court. (Dec. 7, 1993)
Damian Monroe Williams in court. (Dec. 7, 1993) (Associated Press)

Damian Monroe Williams, convicted of throwing a brick that struck trucker Reginald O. Denny in the head during the opening hours of the Los Angeles riots, is sentenced to 10 years in jail — the maximum term for that attack and for assaults on four other people at Florence and Normandie avenues.

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Postscript

Koon and Powell guilty

A federal jury returns guilty verdicts against Los Angeles police officers Stacey C. Koon and Laurence M. Powell for violating Rodney G. King’s civil rights. Officers Theodore J. Briseno and Timothy E. Wind are acquitted for their role in the March 3, 1991, arrest and beating.

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Postscript

Koon and Powell sentenced

Stacey C. Koon arrives at Federal Court for his sentencing. (Aug. 4, 1993)
Stacey C. Koon arrives at Federal Court for his sentencing. (Aug. 4, 1993) (Ken Lubas / Los Angeles Times)

A federal judge orders Officer Laurence M. Powell and Sgt. Stacey C. Koon to spend 2 1/2 years in prison for violating Rodney G. King’s civil rights, a sentence far less than requested by prosecutors and one that brought the wrenching case to a controversial finale.

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Postscript

Sources: Times research

Credits: Maloy Moore