51:10 | Modern history

The Lost Tapes

Season 1  |  Episode 2  |  The History Channel

On the afternoon of April 29, 1992, the powder keg that was the city of Los Angeles, exploded. A jury in the all-white community of Simi Valley had just found four white LAPD officers not guilty in the brutal, videotaped beating of an African American taxi driver named Rodney King. Roiling resentment against the police, which under Chief Daryl Gates had an "us against them" mentality, turned the City of Angeles into a war zone. In South Central, motorists were pulled from their vehicles and beaten. Television viewers saw one white man, Reginald Denny, pulled from his tractor trailer, beaten to a pulp and then witnessed a rioter slam a huge cinder block into the Denny's head while he lay helpless on the ground. The LA riots had begun. For six days the city was under siege, taken over mostly by thugs who used the King verdict as an excuse to run rampant. Stores were looted. Korean shop owners armed themselves and shot anyone who tried to storm their stores. Hundreds of fires burned for days, making LA resemble the oil fields of Iraq when Saddam Hussein's fleeing troops set alight oil wells in the desert. Police abandoned entire neighbourhoods, instead trying to protect upscale enclaves like West Hollywood and Beverly Hills. Daryl Gates said during a press conference "Let it burn". Long standing scores between gangs, neighbours and anyone with a grudge were violently settled.

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