LOS ANGELES--Rodney King, the black man who came to symbolize racial tensions in the United States after his 1991 beating by police led to riots in Los Angeles a year later, was found dead in a swimming pool in Rialto, California, police said. He was 47.
"Preliminary indications are that this is a drowning with no signs of foul play," Rialto police said in a statement on Sunday.
King was discovered by his fiancée, Rialto police Captain Randy De Anda said. The San Bernardino County Coroner's office will conduct an autopsy, authorities said.
King's death was reported to police Sunday morning in Rialto, about 50 miles east of Los Angeles. Police pulled his body from the swimming pool but were unable to resuscitate him, De Anda said.
King became known around the world after he and some friends were stopped by Los Angeles police on March 3, 1991, after a high-speed chase. King was beaten by baton-wielding officers while a bystander videotaped them. The video prompted a national debate on police brutality and race relations.
When the officers were cleared of brutality charges a year later, riots broke out in Los Angeles, resulting in 53 deaths and an estimated US$1 billion in damage.
During the riots, King made a famous televised appeal for calm, saying: "Can we all get along?"
Two of the officers were later convicted on federal charges of violating King's civil rights and were sentenced to prison.
A jury ordered the city of Los Angeles to pay King, who was unemployed at the time of the beating, US$3.8 million in damages.
Activist Reverend Al Sharpton called King a powerful civil rights symbol who "made America focus on the presence of profiling and police misconduct." (AP/TW)