tv CNN Presents CNN June 17, 2012 8:00pm-9:00pm PDT
but now we have computers and internet and facebook, everybody's able to share doubts. which is a powerful thing. and we shouldn't -- we shouldn't have -- ever have the ability to tell someone they can't doubt or shouldn't do. you can't do that anyway. you're going to doubt everything. rodney king, the man whose beating by police set off one of the worst race riots ever in this country has died. king was found unconscious in his pool early today by his fiance, cynthia kelly. kelly call 911, and police arrived to find king unresponsive at the bottom of his pool. just last year on the 20th anniversary of his beating, i spend time with king and his fee son a at their los angeles home and talked about the wake of the beating and high profile trial and riots that followed. king told me he still had nightmares about the pummeling he suffered at hands of l.a.
p.d. officers. for the first time since the beating, he went back to the scene to relive that hellish night. here now is that interview in the cnn documentary "race and rage," the beating of rodney king. >> what do you think when you see it? >> stay alive. i knew that i had to survive this. like that, with my hands up. no threat. >> this was a lynching on video. >> we, the jury, in the above entitled action find the defendant -- >> i think the verdicts lit a match. the tinder was already in place, very dry. >> are you able to forgive those cops? have you let those demons go?
did you hang onto the money or did you throw it away? >> can we -- can we all get along? can we get along? >> march 3rd, 1991, 25-year-old rodney king is thrust from obscurity to a national symbol of police brutality. the brutal beating that took place here along foothill boulevard in los angeles, california, would reverberate across the country. a city in flames. entire neighborhoods burned to the ground. now, two decades later, what's it like to be the man whose beating seen around the world ignited one of the worst race
riots in u.s. history? rodney king usually begins his day on a skateboard. the exercise, he says, keeps his muscles from stiffening. one side effect from all his injuries. skateboarding also brings him peace from the haunting past and demons he's battled the last 20 years. >> do you still have nightmares? >> yeah. yeah, i do. >> what's a nightmare? do you wake up? >> tossing and turning and sometimes even hearing the voices going on that night, you know, hands behind your back, lay down. get down, get down! get down, you f'ing, those words, you know. so i wake up, hey, man, it's all right.
look outside, it's green and blue. at as time has passed on, the nightmares and memories is still there. >> take me back to that night 20 years ago. you're driving along in your hyundai. >> we were coming from a friend of mine's house. >> king's nightmare begins just after midnight. he and two friends out celebrating head west on the 210 freeway. >> i had just gotten word my old construction company had called me to come back to work that following monday. >> but the celebration is cut short. state police clock king's car going 110 miles an hour. and immediately start a nearly eight-mile high-speed chase through l.a. neighborhoods. king has always maintained he may have been speeding but only a little. however, in this rare interview
he sets the record straight. >> i was doing 100. i did every bit of 100. i'm not proud of it. >> why didn't you stop? >> because i had a job to go to that monday and i knew i was on parole and knew i wasn't supposed to be drinking. i'm like, oh, my god. >> following our interview, rodney king agrees to relive those terrifying moments by taking me back to the scene. >> coming down the 210. >> as we retrace his steps, we discuss those split-second decisions. >> my mind was rattling, either i can get off and go over here to my ex-wife's house because her daddy is a san bernardino retired police. at this time, i'm thinking where can i go? i exited here on paxton. >> when you exited here, were they behind you? could see them? >> they were nowhere in sight. when i came to this light right here, that's when i noticed the helicopter.
he was way in front of me, lights beaming down across the street. my heart is like -- my body is hot, i'm scared, nervous, i knew it was going to be pretty much a beating from running from them at that point. >> where did you pull over? >> i seen all those apartments over there. i said, man, i will stop right here. if it goes down, somebody will see it. >> once he stops, they are surrounded by police. king's two friends are arrested without incident. but rodney king would have a much different fate. >> when i opened the door, she said take three steps back away from the car, i did that. i took three steps back. i took the three steps back, said lay down. so when i laid down, i laid down like this. my face was facing this way so i could see them. and they said, no put your f'ing head down, face down. when i finally faced down, he,
bam, took the blow, bam, a real hard blow to the temple. >> what were they saying to you? >> we're going to kill you [ bleep ], run. i was doomed for death. i was looking for clearance. blocking and looking for a clearance. when he did that, i looked. i went up like that and went up this way with my hands up to that'shen dn't know but my leg was broke. >> look closely at beginning of this unedited version of the video. you can see king does try to get nd run. he appears to lift his arms before falling to the ground. it's this portion of the video that later impacts a jury's decision. >> blood was gushing down the street. i felt death. death wasn't far away. >> what is it like coming here and getting down on the street
and reliving this again? >> i can't believe i'm alive to get down there. i can't believe i'm alive today. >> king says the chase and the beating lasts a combined 15 minutes. 15 minutes of hell. he sustains more than 50 baton blows and shocks by a taser gun. but it's not over. somehow he has to find the strength to survive. as the ambulance rushes him to a nearby hospital, he begins to find it more and more difficult to breathe. >> i was blowing blood out of my sinuses and my mouth so i can breathe. >> king's injuries, which include 11 fractures, are too severe to be treated at pacifica hospital. he has to be rushed to the trauma unit at usc medical center. his initial surgery takes three doctors working five hours straight to keep him alive. >> it was incredible how many fractures there were. >> reporter: in a cnn interview
in 1994, the opthamologist who treated king said some bones were so pulverized they were like grains of sand. >> we were surprised he was alive. >> when you finally woke up, do you remember the first time you saw your reflection? >> yes. i started crying when i looked at myself. i was like, will i ever look normal again? >> in severe pain and depressed by the possibili of mo jail time, king knows he has to tell his side of the story. but who would believe him? there is no evidence. or so he thinks. >> this is history. this is history. we finally caught the loch ness monster with a camcorder. >> coming up, a city explodes in rage. later, rodney king, a life haunted by demons. >> do you still have issues when it comes to addiction? for the hours a week, i'm a coach.
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still in the hospital, rodney king thinks he's just another unknown victim of police brutality. little does he know his arrest and brutal beating are captured on video by george holiday who lived in the apartments across the street. >> i was amazed what was happening. what the hell could he have done to deserve such punishment? >> two days after the beating, the video was broadcast around the world. instantly, rodney king's name becomes a battle cry against injustice.
the officer's actions are exposed. king has his evidence but he has no idea until a nurse tells him. she said, just stay still, baby, you're in bad shape. we seen it all on tape. she said, just get yourself well and get out of here. >> when she said, i saw it on tape are you leak, oh my gosh there's evidence, now, they will see. did that go through your head? >> yeah. i said to myself, at least it's on tape, maybe i have a chance, maybe i have a chance. >> the video ignites a firestorm of outrage. rodney king is released without being charged. milton grimes was one of king's attorneys. >> i saw it on tv and i'm saying, they've got to stoep beating our brothers like that in south africa, because i just imagined it was out of the country. >> as los angeles mayor, tom bradley, launches an investigation, so does the fbi.
even the president demands answers. >> it was sickening to see the beating that was rendered. there's no way in my view to explain that away. it was outrageous. >> l.a. city councilman, bernard parks was a deputy police chief in 1991. he says the tape confirmed what many in the black community already felt. >> what the symbolism of that video created is it validated in the minds of thousands of people that this is the way police work has been done and was done for decades. >> we finally caught the loch ness monster with a camcord. >> the district attorney for l.a. county moves quickly. indictments are announced. >> lapd officer lawrence powell, timothy win, theodore briseno and sergeant stacey koon have
been inditd with assault with a deadly weapon. >> racial tensions continue to mount. is there so much publicity and anger, the officer's trial is moved out of l.a. to the predominantly white community of simi valley. author and journalist, lou cannon, covered the rodney king controversy for the "washington post." >> i was very concerned for what was going to happen both because of the demographics of simi valley and the demographics of the jury. >> february 3rd, 1992, exactly 11 months after rodney king's controversial arrest, the trial of the four white officers charged in the beating gets under way. >> immediately after this incident, you made a call for a rescue to ambulance, didn't you? >> yes. i did. >> armed with a videotape as a star witness, rodney king feels a conviction is all but certain and justice served. >> i just knew it would be served. i didn't think i needed a
johnnie cochran or somebody to fight the case or to win the case because there were cameras. >> but will a jury of 10 white, one hispanic, one filipino american and no blacks agree? nearly three months into the trial, a hushed courtroom anxiously awaits the verdict. >> we, the jury, in the above entitled action, find the stacey c.koon not guilty. >> three of the accused officers are acquitted of all charges. but the jury is hopelessly deadlocked on one charge of excessive force against lawrence powell. a mistrial is declared on that charge. >> it's hard to be surprised when you felt that way the whole way, just hoping for the right decision. because i know i'm innocent and that was the verdict. >> powell's attorney, michael stone, says in the end, the unedited video worked against king and helped prove the officer's case. >> most of the nation only saw a
few snippets, where it's the most violent. they didn't see rodney king on the ground. they didn't see him get up and run at powell. >> why do you think the jurors came to a not guilty verdict? >> in the use of force case, if the officers do what they're trained to do, how can you find them guilty of a crime? and the jury understood that. rodney king was the aggressor, rodney king had the ability to say, that's it, i don't want anymore, and he never did. >> what was your reaction when you initially heard not guilty, not guilty, not guilty? >> the public was not going to accept it. >> and king was right. this is the reaction just outside the courthouse. sheriff's deputies having to protect sergeant stacey koon as he makes his way to his car. movie director john singleton is in the crowd and makes a chilling prediction.
>> by having there is ver, what these people have done is lit the fuse to a bomb. >> within just two hours after the verdicts, downtown los angeles is a war zone. >> i said, you know, if i was 20 years younger and had new tennis shoes, i would be in the streets tonight. this was a lynching on video. >> looters go on a rampage. innocent people are randomly attacked. >> no. >> white truck driver, reginald denny, just happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. he hasn't heard about the riots when he exits the interstate. within minutes, denny is attacked. >> my right window broke and at that time, i was extremely
frightened. it's a strange feeling to be scared, i guess. >> that's all denny can remember about the beating. but bobby green will never forget it. green, a fellow trucker, sees the attack on television and rushes to the scene nearly three miles away. when he arrives, he finds denny back in his truck trying to drive himself. >> he's trying to drive his truck himself. i pushed him over, over the seat, and i told him i'm here to save his life. >> green drives denny's truck to the hospital, arriving just in time. >> it gave me glory to my heart that i saved another human being. >> bobby green is just one of many heroes that day. despite all the calls for calm, the rioting continues. the president deploys federal troops. >> let me assure you, i will use whatever force is necessary to restore order.
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burn it, burn it! >> as flames spread across wide ions of the city, rodney king remained secluded, but stunned by the magnitude of destruction. did you anticipate the level of violence that would happen? >> not on that scale. we were told that, like a couple days before, be careful, stay home. >> entire neighborhoods are reduced to rubble. by the end of the first day of rioting, 12 people have already been killed. while much of the looting is random and the perpetrators are as diverse as the city itself, radio korea broadcaster, richard choi, notices a disturbing pattern. >> we received phone calls from the korean merchant in south
l.a., what's going on here? what's going on here? >> choi says callers are telling him korean american owned businesses are being specifically targeted. >> this is america. get out! >> and while their pleas for help seem to be ignored, their property is ransacked by roving bands of looters. >> i wise whole thing was a joe, something i dreamed, that i could wake up from. >> when i watch the tv monitor, is this america? we came to this country to have some kind of established american dream. so this is american dream here? >> where they valid meaning that you ignored their pleas for help? >> i think they were valid in the sense they weren't ignored, there were no resources to go to those locations. and i think that
many thousands of people think they were ignored. there weren't enough officers. >> long before the riots, tensions had been simmering between some black residents and the korean american merchants. >> there was a language barrier, there wasn't an understanding, there was rough treatment, communication problems. >> if those people are citizens, law-abiding citizens, can't they open stores in whatever area they want? >> they were providing a service but that personal relationship was missing. >> those simmering racial tensions ignite after the rodney king verdict. as billowing smoke moves closer to the financial center of korea town, attorney david kim urges merchants to take action. you believe the lapd abandoned the korean american shop owners during that time? >> when i saw the lapd did not get their act together on the second day and they were telling korean american merchants in
koreatown to evacuate, that's when i decided to go and ask the korean american merchants to defend themselves. >> kabc television captures these men apparently taking matters into their own hand. >> there's a shooting. >> koreans are starting to shoot at some of the people here. >> by defending themselves, kim says koreatown became a buffer zone in the battle to prevent the loss of more lives and property. >> the fact that koreatown itself was largely unscathed, i think -- i think you have to credit the people who lived there, particularly the merchants, who were armed and defended their property. >> as the riots enter a fourth day, the man at the center of the storm emerges from
obscurity, his voice visibly shaken. king speaks to the world. >> people, i just want to say, you know, can we can we all get along? can we get along? >> did you feel compelled to come out and say what you said? >> after the first trialn' we all just get along? because i'm exhausted and tired of seeing the same hateful thing go on in our country. >> also mayor tom bradley, los angeles mayor tom bradley extending the curfew area in the city of los angeles. >> it takes six days to restore order. the damage is staggering. 55 people lost their lives. another 2,000 are injured. property damages exceed $1 billion. one week later, president bush makes a personal visit to koreatown to ease tensions.
>> it helped the korean americans because they felt like the system had abandoned them. i think that it at least helped them heal their wounds. >> the events that unfold after the jury's verdict present a watershed moment in the history of race relations across the country. but in l.a., those relations are soon tested again. >> he didn't say that! >> as another trial keeps the city on edge. if you are one of the millions of men who have used androgel 1%, there's big news. presenting androgel 1.62%. both are used to treat men with low testosterone. androgel 1.62% is from the makers of the number one prescribed testosterone replacement therapy. it raises your testosterone levels, and...
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a city on edge. >> we are in a position we already took. >> the lapd says if violence breaks out in l.a., it will be ready. >> you take to the streets, you will give the police the legal right to kill you. >> nearly a year after riots and rage rocked los angeles, l.a. braces itself for the outcome of a second trial.
under pressure from president bush, the department of justice files federal charges against the four police officers acquitted in simi valley. the question at the heart of this case, were rodney king's civil rights violated? >> there was palpable tension, even downtown at the building where the trial was held. >> we have tried to get along with minorities. >> he didn't say that. >> he didn't say that. >> my people in slavery. >> there are noticeable differences between the two trials. this one would take place in downtown los angeles and rodney king would take the witness stand. prosecutors intentionally kept king out of the courtroom for the first trial. >> they thought i was going to go all crazy and act the fool on stage. it wasn't about that. i wanted to get up here and testify and just tell the truth. >> another difference, this time, there are two african-american jurors.
journalist luke hannon says the fear of riots loomed. >> these jurors, they were from southern california. they were scared. >> defense attorney michael stone admits the climate hurt his case. >> there was no way in the world that any jury would acquit all of the defendants again. >> are you saying that you walked into a courtroom with a client who you believed had no chance? >> pretty much so, yeah. >> i was so positive and knew in my heart i'm not even worried about it, if they don't call me, we are still going to win. >> rodney king takes the witness stand and testifies racial epithets were used during the beating. his testimony would spark a war of words between the legal teams. >> mike stone knows that the word nigger was used. >> did your client ever use the word nigger? >> absolutely not. no one did. >> and as he's lying prone,
someone says, n, we will kill you, and takes when you see him getting up. >> he is still willing to stand up in this courtroom before a jury and say they said the word, nigger, and then say, well, maybe it was killer. i'm not sure. >> laurence powell, accused of making the racial slur, also disputed king's testimony. >> rodney king is no doubt a liar and the evidence bears it out. >> first you said it was racial then you said it was then you heard the "n" word then you didn't. >> i heard it. my mom said, whatever you do, don't say it was racism. i respect her for that time. i know what i heard. >> after 45 days, the federal trial ends. >> i think we will be acquitted. and -- but that 1%, you know, we night not be is real worrisome. >> on the sixth day of deliberations, the jury reaches a verdict.
>> we, the jury, find the defendant stacey c. koon guilty. >> yeah! >> i had my arm on larry powell's shoulder. and i leaned over to him and i said, we're going down, bud. >> what was his reaction? >> he tensed. he tensed. >> we, the jury, in the above entitled cause, find the defendant guilty. >> yeah! >> two out of the four officers are found guilty. >> it was like god, i hope we just get one, i hope we just get one on that. if we get one, we're good. to get the two, i was really happy. >> sergeant stacey koon and officer laurence powell were
both sentenced to 2 1/2 years in federal prison. the verdicts seemed to satisfy the community. no riots erupted. >> it was here at the federal building where guilty verdicts gave rodney king the justice he was looking for. one more trial was still to come. rodney king's lawsuit would determine how much money, if any, he received for his injuries. king's civil suit against the city of los angeles was his third trial in three years. >> i fit this profile of the conservative african-american. >> cynthia kelley, the only african-american juror during the civil suit, says the jury deliberations were contentious. >> half of them had no sympathy whatsoever. they did not care at all. they just didn't care. he broke the law, he deserved what he got. >> what do you think of that? >> i told them they were crazy. no one deserves to get beat like that. >> the jury eventually sided
with kelley, and awarded rodney king, $3.8 million. >> so many people have been through what i've went through and i just happen to be first in line to -- for it to get recognized and people say we're not taking this [ bleep ] no more, we're through. >> up next, rodney king's battle to put the beating behind him. >> are you able to forgive those cops?
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we want justice! we want justice! >> the rodney king beating ignited l.a.'s simmering racial tensions. and one message came through loud and clear. reform had to be made. >> we are not going out in the '90s like we did in the '60s. we want justice and we want it now! >> we want it now! >> the main impact of the rodney king case is that it accelerated change. the lapd style of policing, which was lean, mean, no time for the community policing, that had to change. >> it was only five blacks in my class of '85. >> former lapd police chief
bernard parks said he realized the top officers need to be as diverse as the city. >> when i was the chief, promoted the first korean commander and first chinese captain is now the first deputy chief and first female deputy chief. >> court mandated reforms also gave the black community a voice in how their neighborhoods are patrolled. >> hi, guys. how you doing? >> as a result, according to the justice department, complaints of excessive force are down sharply. >> the community has complained for decades they couldn't get their complaints considered, they couldn't get one taken. i changed the system almost the first six months i was in office. >> case in point, parks says investigating complaints and following tips within the black community was crucial in capturing one of the most prolific serial killers in u.s. history. he was dubbed the grim sleeper
because he appeared to take a 14-year break between killing sprees. >> the los angeles police department, robbery homicide division is here to confirm we made an arrest. >> finally in 2010, lonnie franklin jr. was arrested and charged with murders of at least ten black women from neighborhoods hardest hit by the riots. >> for the families, this case is solved because of you. yes, it was science, yes it was good detective work, but it was because of the families. >> in the years since the rodney king riots, there's been a seismic shift in race relations between the lapd and the black community. 6 and here in koreatown, most businesses have emerge from ashes and are thriving again. attorney david kim is trying to find a common thread in history to unify the community. >> african-americans are the ones that paved the road for korean merchants to do business in this country. >> even today, the relationship is sometimes tenuous. >> the relationship between
african-american and korean- american community hasn't improved as much as we would like. i think there is a tolerance that has been built up because of that experience. >> as for the officers convicted in the rodney king beating, both powell and koon still live in southern california. they declined our request for the interview. >> they picked up their lives and put them back together. >> do you think the officers, if they could do it again, would they do it any differently? >> they'd walk away, let him go. >> let him go even though he's breaking the law? >> uh-huh. >> why? >> because of look what happened to them. look what happen to them. why would they want that to happen again to them, to them or anyone? >> i think mr. king has told the truth. >> the king case also had a profound impact on the lawyers who argued the case on opposite sides. >> if i was able to write a script for a case, this would
have been a script that afforded me an opportunity to be involved in helping our society progress to the point of peace and civilization. >> it's all how the jury looks at it now. history has recorded that rodney king incident as a racist beating of a black man by four white police officers, and that's really tragic. i failed in my singular mission, i guess, to change minds about that case. >> as for the lapd, bernard parks says the culture within the department has changed. but it remains a work in progress. >> i think it's an evolving process that everybody works at everyday. when there's a misstep, you try to correct it. you don't try to slough it off, don't try to ignore it, you have to move forward and see how you can make it better. >> for rodney king, the vicious beating never seems to fade from memory.
>> do you think the relationship now is better between the black community and the lapd? >> i will say it has improved. it is -- it has gotten better, but it just don't stop there. you have to keep working on it. coming up, rodney king, 20 years later. >> do you still have issues when it comes to addiction? >> did you hang on to that money or did you throw it away? are you able to forgive those cops? a surprising twist in his personal life. [ male announcer ] count the number of buttons in your car. now count the number of buttons on your tablet. isn't it time the automobile advanced? introducing cue in the all-new cadillac xts. the simplicity of a tablet has come to your car. ♪ the all-new cadillac xts has arrived.
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>> but the riots still haunt some who were at the center of the unrest. >> i always have a flashback when i come here. i feel sorry. i feel regret. >> bobby green, who risked his life to save reginald denny, left los angeles shortly after the riots. >> ain't no reason for me to come back to l.a. gives me bad vibe. i think about what happened in the '90s, the i out z /* riots it's a bad vibe. >> green now lives an hour away in realto, california, ironically, one of his suburban neighbors is rodney king. king's working class neighborhood has a postcard view of the san gabriel mountains. he has a modest home with a backyard pool. today, king is the father of three and has two grandchildren. he's 20 years older and according to him, a lot wiser.
king admits his past is riddled with bad decisions. >> if you could do it all over again, what would you do? would you go out that night? >> i'd have stayed home. i think i'd have stayed home. >> for years after the beating, rodney king continued to have run-ins with the law. in 1996, he was sentenced to 90 days for a hit-and-run involving his wife. he was also arrested several times on charges related to domestic abuse. drug intoxication and indecent exposure. >> why, after all that, that's what people would say, especially black people, why after all that, rodney, are you still getting in trouble? >> i guess the trouble they see me in is a part of my life i'm working on. >> king's admitted alcoholism and personal problems also caused him to virtually squander his share of the settlement, worth, according to him, $1.5 million. he purchased homes for himself and his mother.
but what did he do with the rest of the money? did you hang on to that money or did you throw it away? >> when i get that shot again, we all know how money can come and it can go. save, save, save for tomorrow. >> you're telling me, it's gone. >> it's pretty much -- pretty much. >> and 20 years later, rodney king still lives in fear. >> years after the beating, you wore a vest? >> yeah. >> do you still wear a vest? >> yeah, i do. i do. >> he wears a bullet proof vest in large crowds because threats against his life were all too real. the fbi once infiltrated a white supremacist plot to assassinate king. are you constantly looking over your shoulder? >> i never feel safe. things that happen. when you are part of history
and it changes for the better, you've got a lot of devilish people out there that don't like it. >> king continues to battle his demons. in 2008, after several stints in rehab, he turned to psychiatrist, dr. drew pinsky, appearing on vh1 celebrity rehab. >> we will have a lot of feelings and a lost angers and god knows what. >> it's with me. i don't bring it up unless it's -- >> tell me about it. >> king now admits alcoholism is a life-long battle that is far from over. >> i'll always have an issue when it comes to alcohol. my dad was an alcoholic. the addiction part is in my blood. what i've learned to do is arrest my addiction, i arrested myself so i don't get arrested. >> he says he's finally able to keep many of his demons at bay. he's even fallen in love. >> she's a nice, friendly person. >> remember cynthia kelley, one of the jurors from king's civil
suit? in a twist, the two are now engaged. >> do you feel like you owe her in some way? >> no. not at all. >> i do. >> i don't. i don't. >> king and kelley formed a friendship immediately after the trial. they would decide to marry 16 years later. >> what are you guys looking forward to today? >> i know one thing, she cooks good. >> this is the fish. >> oh. you put it in the batter. >> how do you describe the strange twist of affairs? >> it's just the chemistry. we get along. we have fun, we laugh. we have the same, you know, things we like to do. it just happened. >> but kelley realizes there are still serious challenges ahead. >> when he sleep, he has so many nightmares and fighting in his sleep. >> you're his rock? >> as long as he don't break it.
>> how could you love someone like rodney king? >> he's a lovable type of guy. he's like a little teddy bear. >> two decades after the beating that made him a household name, rodney king says the mistakes of his past have taught him some tough lessons. a history he does not want to repeat. when rodney king had the blood on his face, that mugshot of you with the blood on your face, who was he then? >> oh, man, a guy that was almost dead and just like happy to be able to still have that face to be able to see that face. >> and rodney king now? all cleaned up, trimmed goatee, beads around his neck, who is rodney king now? >> i consider myself a decent, you know, good human being. >> are you a