*Rodney King’s death in June was the result of accidental drowning, but a cocktail of alcohol and drugs in his system were contributing factors, authorities said today.
Rodney King, who came to symbolize police brutality and the troubled relations between the Los Angeles Police Department and minorities, died after drowning in his backyard pool in Rialto on June 17 with alcohol, cocaine, marijuana and PCP in his system, the San Bernardino County coroner’s office has determined. Those drugs, combined with a heart condition, led to a cardiac arrhythmia, according to the report. His blood-alcohol level was 0.06.
“He was in a state of drug- and alcohol-induced delirium at the time of the terminal event and either fell or jumped into the swimming pool,” according to the coroner’s report.
King had long struggled with drugs and alcohol. He called himself a recovering addict but had not stopped drinking and obtained a doctor’s clearance for medical marijuana. Last year he appeared on VH1’s “Celebrity Rehab,” trying to tackle his fight with alcoholism.
King’s fiancee, Cynthia Kelley, called 911 at 5:25 a.m. after finding King at the bottom of the pool. Kelley told Rialto Police Department detectives that she was unable to rescue him because she was a poor swimmer.
At the time, police said there were no “outward signs” of alcohol or drug use that may have caused King to fall into the pool. Investigators responding to the incident confiscated what appeared to be marijuana plants from King’s home.
Police said King’s body showed no signs of trauma, and no traces of blood were found on the concrete pool deck or in the water. He was dressed in swim trunks when police officers pulled him from the water.
In the investigation, King’s next-door neighbors had conflicting reports about the hours before his death. One neighbor, Sandra Gardea, 31, said she heard King sobbing uncontrollably in his backyard, apparently after he had been up all night. She said she heard King’s fiancee trying to coax him back into the house.
“It wasn’t like an argument,” Gardea said. “She was just saying, ‘Get in the house. Get in the house.'”
Then there was silence, said Gardea, whose open bedroom window faces King’s house. A few minutes later, Gardea said, she heard a splash.
King’s other next-door neighbor, Dee Schnepf, 58, said she didn’t hear any commotion coming from King’s backyard that night. Schnepf said she arrived home early Sunday morning and was in her backyard around 3:30 a.m. feeding her cats. Schnepf, 58, said it was not uncommon for King to take a swim at night or early in the morning and that “he liked to swim in the dark.”
King’s 1991 beating at the hands of police led to deadly riots in Los Angeles in 1992. He was awarded a $3.8-million settlement, but the money and fame brought him little solace. He had repeated run-ins with the law and as of April said he was broke.