The Washington Post

Rodney King’s life is portrayed in a one-man play at Woolly Mammoth Theatre

Roger Guenveur Smith in Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company's production of "Rodney King." (Patti McGuire/Handout photo)

After mesmerizing audiences with his one-man shows as Huey P. Newton and Frederick Douglass, Roger Guenveur Smith will inhabit on stage the life of Rodney King, whose beating by Los Angeles police in 1991 and subsequent acquittal of the officers involved led to the deadly 1992 Los Angeles riots and his own famous plea, “Can we all get along?” ¶ As Smith brings his complex, one-man “Rodney King” to the Woolly Mammoth Theatre Tuesday, it’s time to recall its subject by the numbers. |

Rodney King opens at Woolly Mammoth Theatre, 641 D St. NW, Tuesday, running through July 20. Call 202-393-3939 or visit

Catlin is a freelance writer.


Year Rodney Glen King III was born in Sacramento, the same year as the Watts race riots in Los Angeles.


Highway on which an eight-mile-long, high-speed car chase began March 3, 1991, winding through residential streets before King’s white Hyundai finally was stopped by officers with the Los Angeles Police Department.


Approximate length, in minutes, of video taken by George Holliday on a Sony Handycam from an apartment balcony depicting the LAPD beating King that was subsequently shown widely on local, national and international outlets.


Officers who surrounded King during the arrest and beating. Four were charged with assault with a deadly weapon and use of deadly force.


Number of baton blows, along with six kicks, delivered to King, who was under the influence of alcohol.


Officers who were acquitted of all charges; the fourth was acquitted of assault with a deadly weapon, but the jury deadlocked on use of excessive force.


Days of rioting in Los Angeles in 1992 when the verdict was announced, in what became the nation’s largest riots of the 20th century.


Killed in the L.A. rioting, the worst death toll in a U.S. riot in 128 years since a protest against the draft for the Civil War in 1863 that killed 120 in New York.


Injuries logged in the L.A. riots, along with more than 7,000 fires damag ing 3,100 businesses, incurring nearly $1 billion in losses.


Officers eventually found guilty for violations of King’s civil rights in federal court in 1993. They were sentenced to 32 months in prison. The two other officers in the original case were again acquitted.

$3.8 million

Awarded to King after he sued the city for brutality, part of which he used to start a label, Straight Alta-Pazz Records, which went out of business.


King is cast in VH1’s “Celebrity Rehab” with Dr. Drew Pinsky, alongside actress Tawny Kitaen and Steven Adler of Guns N’ Roses. King went on to appear in show’s spin-off, “Sober House.”


The anniversary of the beating on March 3, 2011, when King was stopped for erratic driving, one of nearly a dozen run-ins with law since the beating, for charges ranging from drunk driving to domestic abuse.


Age of King at the time of death by drowning in a swimming pool as possible result of alcohol and drug abuse on June 17, 2012.



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