George Holliday, who shot video of police beating Rodney King, dies


By Kanishka Singh

(Reuters) – George Holliday, the plumber who shot video of Los Angeles police officers beating Black motorist Rodney King in 1991, has died at a hospital in California due to complications from COVID-19, a friend said.

The video that Holliday captured symbolized police brutality and racial injustice and was an early example of the power of citizen journalism, where a bystander documented a momentous event that might otherwise have been overlooked.

Holliday, who was believed to be in his early 60s, was hospitalized with the coronavirus for about a month and died on Sunday, his friend, Robert Wollenweber, said on Monday. The death was first reported by TMZ.

Long before the advent of the Black Lives Matter movement, the name Rodney King was synonymous with the use of excessive force in policing minority groups. King, then 25, was battered by a squad of police officers after a traffic stop in March 1991, an incident caught in graphic detail on Holliday's video.

The video of King's beating, shot in grainy black and white, was played on hundreds of television stations. The acquittal of the four LA police officers by a jury led to riots in Los Angeles over six days in 1992, in which more than 50 people were killed and some $1 billion in damage was caused.

The four police officers were indicted later that year on federal civil rights charges, with two found guilty and sentenced to two years in prison. King, who died in 2012 at the age of 47, was awarded $3.8 million in damages.

Memories of the King video resurfaced following the 2020 death of George Floyd, an African-American who died after a police officer knelt on his neck for more than eight minutes, a killing that a bystander captured on video, sparking months of protests against police brutality and racism across the world.

On March 3, 1991, Holliday stood on his balcony and used his Sony Video8 Handycam to record the police officers beating King. Holliday called the police to find out what had happened. When they declined to share information with him, he rang the KTLA news station.

King – who was on parole for robbery – had led police on a high-speed chase through Los Angeles. Later, he was charged with driving under the influence, according to NPR.

When police stopped him, King was ordered out of the car. Los Angeles Police Department officers kicked him repeatedly and beat him with batons. The video also showed that several policemen stood by watching and commenting on the beating.

King's injuries resulted in skull fractures, broken bones and teeth, and permanent brain damage, NPR reported.

(Reporting by Kanishka Singh in Bengaluru; Editing by Robert Birsel)

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