Charting the Hours of Chaos
The acquittals of four LAPD officers in the Rodney G. King beating
case 10 years ago today left the city stunned. Crowds gathered angrily
on street corners across the city, while thousands more turned to their
televisions to watch events unfold. The flash point was a single gritty
intersection in South-Central Los Angeles, but it was a scene eerily
repeated in many parts of Los Angeles in the hours that followed.
Here is a chronology of events between the verdicts and the end of
curfew five days later.
Wednesday, April 29, 1992
3:15 p.m.: Three LAPD officers are acquitted and one is
partially acquitted in the videotaped beating of motorist Rodney G.
King, setting off a powerful chain reaction.
3:30 to 3:45 p.m.: The crowd outside the Simi Valley
courthouse in Ventura County swells to more than 300, most of them
protesting the verdicts.
3:30 to 5 p.m.: Community activists and leaders meet to
5 to 6 p.m.: More than two dozen officers confront a
growing crowd near Florence and Normandie avenues in South-Central Los
Angeles. Outnumbered, police back off and do not return. The crowd vents
its anger on passing motorists.
About 6:30 p.m.: Several hundred demonstrators gather
outside Parker Center, the police headquarters, in downtown Los Angeles.
About 6:45 p.m.: In one of the most startling images of
the riots, truck driver Reginald O. Denny is pulled from his cab and
severely beaten. Four people, some of whom saw the beating on TV, come
to his aid.
6 to 7 p.m.: Police begin arriving at a command post at
a bus depot at 54th Street and Arlington Avenue.
6 to 8 p.m.: More than 2,000 gather for a peaceful
rally at the First African Methodist Episcopal Church.
6 to 8 p.m.: Looting and rioting begin in earnest. One
of the first targets: Tom's Liquor and Deli at Florence and Normandie.
Demonstrators begin torching buildings in South-Central Los Angeles. The
first fire call is received about 7:45 p.m.
7 to 8 p.m.: Police commanders order all officers to
report for duty.
7 to 9 p.m.: Rioting erupts in Inglewood, prompting
officials to declare a state of emergency.
7:30 to 8 p.m.: Los Angeles Unified School District
announces plans to close schools in the affected areas.
8:45 p.m.: Mayor Tom Bradley calls a local state of
emergency. Moments later, Gov. Pete Wilson, at Bradley's request, orders
the National Guard to activate 2,000 reserve soldiers.
About 9 p.m.: Bus service is shut down in portions of
South-Central Los Angeles at the request of the LAPD. The restrictions
eventually affect 27 bus lines throughout the area.
About 9 p.m.: The demonstration outside Parker Center
turns violent as the crowd throws rocks, smashes windows and torches a
kiosk. Other demonstrators vandalize several downtown buildings and
snarl traffic on the Hollywood Freeway (101).
9:05 p.m.: The California Highway Patrol closes exit
ramps from the Harbor Freeway (110) from the Santa Monica Freeway (10)
junction to Century Boulevard to keep unsuspecting motorists from
wandering into the path of violence. Eventually the closure is moved
south, stretching from Martin Luther King Boulevard to Imperial Highway.
9:05 p.m.: The Federal Aviation Administration shifts
the landing pattern of jetliners approaching LAX for safety reasons,
after the LAPD notifies the FAA that a police helicopter was fired upon.
About 9:15 p.m.: About 200 to 300 demonstrators gather
at Hansen Dam Recreation Center in Lake View Terrace march to the nearby
LAPD Foothill Division headquarters.
10:30 p.m.: Bradley issues a taped message to the
citizens of Los Angeles calling for peace. The message is broadcast
(From 3 p.m. Wednesday through midnight)
Deaths: At least eight
Injuries: Nearly two dozen people are admitted to the
emergency room at Martin Luther King Jr./Drew Medical Center.
Thursday, April 30, 1992
Midnight: Gov. Wilson holds a news conference
announcing a state of emergency and plans to dispatch the National Guard
and the California Highway Patrol. Just after midnight, three people are
killed when their car, being chased by Beverly Hills police, hits a fire
hydrant and overturns.
12:15 a.m.: Bradley signs an order enacting a curfew in
the area most affected by the unrest.
Midnight to 3 a.m.: Three new fires per minute are
reported, overwhelming the Los Angeles Fire Department.
About 8 a.m.: Nearly 2,000 National Guard troops are in
place at area armories. They spend hours taking refresher courses and
waiting for equipment, ammunition and deployment orders from local law
9:30 a.m.: Bradley, flanked by Fire Chief Donald
Manning and Police Chief Daryl F. Gates, holds a news conference on the
violence rocking the city.
10:15 a.m.: Bradley expands the curfew to cover more of
the area scarred by violence.
12 to 3 p.m.: The Rapid Transit District announces that
all bus service will be suspended as of 6 p.m.
12-2:30 p.m.: The National Guard is officially
deployed. By late afternoon, hundreds of troops take up positions in hot
spots around the city.
1-6 p.m.: Smoke along Washington Boulevard becomes so
thick that it impairs visibility of Blue Line train operators.
Passengers are taken off the train and shuttled by bus from the 7th and
Figueroa station to the station at Washington and Long Beach Avenue.
3:30 p.m.: U.S. Atty. Gen. William P. Barr announces
that the Justice Department will resume its investigation into possible
civil rights violations in the King beating.
5:10 p.m.: Wilson holds a news conference, carried live
statewide, urging an end to violence and promising enough law
enforcement to bring the trouble under control.
About 6:30 p.m.: Long Beach declares a state of
emergency and imposes a 7 p.m.-6 a.m. curfew. But the move is not enough
to protect a Department of Motor Vehicles office that is burned to the
ground. Curfews are imposed in Carson, Culver City, Hawthorne, Hermosa
Beach, Huntington Park, Inglewood, Pomona, San Fernando, Torrance and
A countywide curfew is imposed from the Long Beach Freeway (710) in the
east, the Santa Ana (5) and Santa Monica (10) freeways in the north, the
San Diego Freeway (405) in the west and Lomita Boulevard in the south.
About 10 p.m.: Wilson takes a helicopter tour around
the perimeter of the troubled area.
Just before midnight: Bradley and Wilson announce they
have requested more National Guard troops to bring the Los Angeles
County total to 6,000. They also ask the U.S. military to be placed
Throughout the day: Thousands loot retail outlets in
South-Central Los Angeles, Koreatown, Hollywood, Mid-Wilshire, Watts and
Westwood as well as Beverly Hills, Compton, Culver City, Hawthorne, Long
Beach, Norwalk and Pomona.
Long lines form at supermarkets and gas stations throughout the city as
residents, fearing shortages, stock up.
Government offices, courthouses, libraries, shopping malls and many
businesses are shut down for the day.
Cal State Los Angeles, Dominguez Hills and Northridge cancel classes.
Final exams are postponed at USC.
The Los Angeles Unified School District expands its school closure to
include every school and child-care center in the district.
Mail service is suspended to 14 ZIP Codes in the hardest-hit areas.
Professional sports teams cancel games, including the NBA playoff game
between the Clippers and the Utah Jazz, and the matchup between the
Dodgers and the Philadelphia Phillies.
A power outage leaves thousands of Angelenos in the dark.
(From 3 p.m. Wednesday through 11 p.m. Thursday)
Deaths: At least 25
Estimated damages: $200 million to $250 million
Friday, May 1, 1992
1:15 to 5:30 a.m.: Gov. Wilson and Mayor Bradley talk
with President George H.W. Bush and other officials in Washington about
deployment of federal troops.
7:15 a.m.: Officials announce that 3,000 to 4,000
federal troops and 1,000 riot-trained federal law officers will be sent
to Los Angeles.
About 7:30 a.m.: Three LAPD officers are fired on by a
sniper but are not seriously hurt.
Before 8 a.m.: Hundreds begin crowding South-Central
Los Angeles post offices to get mail not delivered to their homes due to
9:30 a.m.: Bradley announces that the dusk-to-dawn
curfew will be expanded citywide. The directive also prohibits the sale
of ammunition and the sale of gasoline except for automobiles.
11:45 a.m.: During a news conference with Patricia
Sakai, administrator of the Small Business Administration, Bradley
announces that Wilson will seek an official federal disaster declaration
About 1 p.m.: More than 1,000 Korean Americans and
others gather at a peace rally at Western Avenue and Wilshire Boulevard.
About 2 p.m.: Pomona declares a state of emergency and
imposes a dusk-to-dawn curfew.
About 2:30 p.m.: Officials in Washington and Los
Angeles announce that a federal grand jury has been convened and
indicate that the Justice Department is likely to seek criminal
indictments of the four officers involved in the King beating.
About 2:45 p.m.: Rodney G. King, the man whose
videotaped beating created a national furor over police brutality,
breaks his long silence to speak out about the violence inflicted in his
name. In a brief emotional statement he asks: "People ... can we
3-5 p.m.: About 4,000 federal troops, Marines and
soldiers begin arriving at Marine Corps Air Stations in Tustin and El
By 6 p.m.: Most of the 6,000 National Guard troops sent
to Los Angeles are deployed.
6 p.m.: Bush, speaking from the Oval Office, addresses
the nation on the violence in Los Angeles and elsewhere. He announces
that he will place 6,000 National Guard members under federal control.
7 p.m.-midnight: The curfew begins to take a heavy toll
on area merchants, with some reporting $40,000 to $50,000 in losses per
Throughout the day:
Cleanup efforts begin along heavily hit Vermont Avenue and other areas,
including the Mid-City, Mid-Wilshire and Hollywood sections.
In addition to Los Angeles, schools are closed in Beverly Hills,
Compton, Inglewood, Long Beach, Lynwood, Paramount and Torrance.
Colleges and universities remain closed.
Many airlines cancel flights into LAX, and many travelers opt instead to
use airports in outlying cities.
Up to 25,000 residents still are without electricity.
(From 3 p.m. Wednesday through 11 p.m. Friday)
Deaths: At least 40
Injuries: 1,419 (159 critical)
Estimated damages: $500 million to $550 million. About
3,100 businesses are affected by rioting or looting.
Saturday, May 2, 1992
8 a.m.: The first of 6,000 alleged looters and
arsonists are scheduled to begin appearing in court, but due to the
volume of cases, arraignments don't begin until midafternoon.
10 a.m.: Long Beach City Council meets in emergency
session to report on violence there. The tally: one death, 334 injuries
and nearly 300 businesses destroyed by fire.
11 a.m.: An estimated 30,000 people march for racial
healing and in support of beleaguered merchants in Koreatown.
11:30 a.m.: Bradley announces that the citywide curfew
will be in effect indefinitely.
4 p.m.: The first Marine Corps units arrive in Compton.
5:15 p.m.: Bradley names former Olympics organizer
Peter V. Ueberroth to serve as the unpaid "czar" for the
Rebuild L.A. effort. At the same news conference, Gov. Wilson announces
that President Bush has declared Los Angeles a disaster area.
6:40 p.m.: Bradley signs an executive order prohibiting
landlords from imposing late fees on renters unable to withdraw money
from damaged banks.
Throughout the day: Legions of volunteers armed with
grit, gumption and cleaning supplies hit the streets. The effort
attracts residents from all races and all segments of the county.
Citizens also pitch in to help direct traffic, hand out food and shuttle
residents without bus service.
Authorities report no new major fires and few major riot-related
criminal incidents for the first time since the violence erupted
County officials close an eight-mile stretch of beach in Venice and
Playa del Rey.
More than 3,500 National Guard troops are on the streets, with another
1,000 in staging areas. Army and Marine forces remain largely in staging
(From 3 p.m. Wednesday through 11 p.m. Saturday)
Deaths: At least 45
Injuries: 2,116 (211 critical)
Estimated damages: $550 million
With the official tally of 45 deaths, Los Angeles becomes the site of
the most deadly U.S. riot in contemporary history.
Sunday, May 3, 1992
6 a.m.: RTD resumes some service into South-Central Los
Angeles during the day.
About 10:30 a.m.: The Rev. Jesse Jackson meets with
leaders in Koreatown to urge an end to animosity between African
American and Korean American communities.
10:45 a.m.: L.A. County Sheriff Sherman Block calls for
federal prosecution of those who targeted Korean American merchants and
beat a white truck driver during the unrest.
11:30 a.m.: Bradley announces that he is lifting the
dusk-to-dawn curfew on Monday. He says he expects inquiries into LAPD
and National Guard delays in responding to the crisis.
1 p.m.: Harbor Freeway (110) off-ramps are reopened.
4 p.m.: The number of inmates at the County Jail tops a
7:50 p.m.: National Guard members shoot a motorist they
say was trying to run them down. The man, a Latino, dies at 10:05 p.m.
It is the first use of deadly force by the Guard since troops' arrival
During the day:
Delivering homilies at churches throughout the area, including
South-Central, Cardinal Roger M. Mahony urges looters to return stolen
Ueberroth and Wilson take separate tours of riot-damaged sections of Los
Police acting on tips recover truckloads of looted merchandise.
Federal authorities announce that the FBI and U.S. attorney general's
office will investigate the torching of Korean-owned businesses and the
attack on Denny, the truck driver.
The South Korean Foreign Ministry announces that its government will
send a delegation to Los Angeles to seek reparation for Korean American
merchants who suffered damage during the unrest.
Federal, state and local emergency officials announce that one-stop
disaster-assistance centers will open by week's end.
Many school districts, including Los Angeles, Inglewood and Beverly
Hills, announce that classes will resume Monday.
Normal class schedules also are announced for USC and University of
Democratic presidential hopeful Bill Clinton arrives in Los Angeles to
meet with community leaders and to inspect the hard-hit areas.
Authorities reveal that most of the 1,200 backup federal law enforcement
officers will leave Monday.
Nearly 8,500 members of the Marines, Army and National Guard are posted
throughout the county.
(From 3 p.m. Wednesday through 11 p.m. Sunday)
Deaths: At least 51
Injuries: 2,328 (228 critical)
Estimated damages: $717 million (excluding Long Beach)
Physicians for Reginald O. Denny, the truck driver beaten as an angry
crowd and stunned TV viewers watched, announce that the 36-year-old man
is making a "remarkable recovery."
Monday, May 4, 1992
6 a.m.: The dusk-to-dawn curfew, imposed at the height
of the rioting, ends. RTD resumes its full normal schedule citywide.
6:30 a.m.: Normal arrivals departures resume at LAX.
7-10 a.m.: Los Angeles returns to work, school and the
7-9 a.m.: Thousands queue up at state employment
offices. Economists estimate that 20,000 to 40,000 people were put out
of work when their places of business were looted or burned.
8 a.m.: White House officials announce that the federal
government will make available $600 million--half in SBA loans and half
in cash grants--to help repair damage.
The Bush administration also sends a team of officials to the city to
11:15 a.m.: State Sen. Art Torres (D-Los Angeles)
proposes a 1/4-cent sales tax boost to fund rebuilding and to generate
funds for earthquake relief.
4:30 p.m.: Gov. Wilson meets privately with 16
California corporate executives, including representatives of four major
financial institutions and three large supermarket chains.
During the day: Bill Clinton and Republican
presidential candidate Patrick Buchanan tour Koreatown.
Korean American business community leaders map a strategy for helping
Several financial institutions, including Bank of America, American
Savings Bank, Wells Fargo, First Interstate and Glendale Federal,
announce assistance programs for businesses and homeowners in areas
damaged during the riots.
Despite mounting criticism, LAPD Chief Gates defends his conduct in
planning and coping with the disturbance, particularly in its early
Federal law enforcement experts sent to Los Angeles are sent home, as
are many police officers and sheriff's deputies from elsewhere in the
Aided by additional tips from residents, police continue to recover
Homicide detectives from the LAPD's Rampart Division launch an
investigation into the shooting death of a motorist killed Sunday after
he allegedly tried to run down a Guard member.
(From 3 p.m. Wednesday through 11 p.m. Monday)
Deaths: At least 58
Injuries: 2,383 (228 critical)
Estimated damages: $717 million; 3,100 businesses
affected by rioting or looting
In the months ahead, some deaths will be found not to be riot-related
and the death toll will be adjusted to 54. The damage estimate will be
adjusted to nearly $1 billion.
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