rodney king*With the approaching twentieth anniversary of the LA Riots – which started April 29, 1992 – the LA Times got together with Rodney King to find out where his head is 20 years later.

If you recall, it all started after a  jury acquitted four police officers in the vicious beating of King a year earlier. The acquittals unleashed an onslaught of pent-up anger.

There were 54 riot-related deaths and nearly $1 billion in property damage . It was not a good time for Los Angeles, the USA and Rodney King.

King remembers. He rubs his right cheek, numb since the beating, and describes what it was like to be struck by batons, stung by Tasers.

“It felt,” he says, “like I was an inch from death.”

Later he confides that he is at peace with what happened to him.

“I would change a few things, but not that much,” he says. “Yes, I would go through that night, yes I would. I said once that I wouldn’t, but that’s not true. It changed things. It made the world a better place.”

He is 47 now — jobless and virtually broke. Gone is the settlement money he got after suing the city for violating his civil rights. All $3.8 million of it. Huge chunks went to the lawyers, he says, some to family members, some he simply wasted.

The settlement did provide a down payment on the inconspicuous rambler that is his home in Rialto. He says he cobbles together mortgage payments. Every so often he gets hired to pour concrete at a construction site. He has earned small paydays fighting in celebrity boxing matches. He received an advance — less than six figures, he says, but significant nonetheless — for allowing his story to be told in a book set to go on sale Tuesday: “The Riot Within: My Journey from Rebellion to Redemption.”

Rodney King redeemed?

He inhabits a world stocked with heartache and struggle. He calls himself a recovering addict but has not stopped drinking and possesses a doctor’s clearance for medical marijuana. He says he is happy and hopeful, content enough now to forgive the officers who beat him. But he tenses when they are mentioned and admits to being burdened by the weight of his name. He suffers nightmares, flashbacks and raw nerves that echo the symptoms of a shell shocked survivor of war.

“I sometimes feel like I’m caught in a vise. Some people feel like I’m some kind of hero,” he says of the beating. “Others hate me. They say I deserved it. Other people, I can hear them mocking me for when I called for an end to the destruction, like I’m a fool for believing in peace.”

Read/learn more at LA Times.

Watch this ABC News report from 1991 on the on the beating of Rodney King by four LAPD officers, whose acquittal led to the LA Riots which began on April 29, 1992: