'We're going to kill you, nigger'

Click to follow
The Independent Online
THE MAN whose police beating prompted deadly riots and became one of the United States' most contentious civil rights issues yesterday finally told his story before an open court. Rodney King appeared before a federal court in central Los Angeles and began his faltering account of the night which began when he set off drunkenly for a car ride with friends, and ended when he was kicked and repeatedly baton-whipped by Los Angeles police officers.

He described how he was kicked, hit with police batons and shot with a stun gun. 'They asked me how do I feel?' he told a rapt court. 'I didn't want them to know that it was getting to me. I didn't want them to have the satisfaction.'

Mr King, 27, said one officer told him: 'We're going to kill you, nigger. Run]' He said other officers yelled: 'What's up, killer? What's up, nigger? How do you feel, killer?' They were 'just chanting it as they beat me,' he said.

Mr King, looking thin and wearing a sober blue suit, described in a slow, calm voice how he awoke in a hospital jail ward after his beating two years ago with a foggy memory of what had occurred. 'Physically, I felt horrible, in lots of pain. I just was wondering what I did to deserve that type of pain,' he said.

The four officers, whose acquittal by a state court on almost every charge last April prompted the Los Angeles riots, are being tried by a federal court on charges of violating Mr King's civil rights - allegations which are difficult to prove because the prosecution must establish intent. Mr King was not called to testify in that trial, a decision much criticised later.

Questioned by Assistant US Attorney Barry Kowalski, Mr King said he had seen the now internationally notorious amateur videotape of his beating more than 10 times. 'It makes me sick to my stomach to watch it,' he said.

Mr King, who was on a parole after being jailed for robbery, also explained why he sped off when a California Highway Patrol car first set out in pursuit of him. He admitted drinking, and was afraid of going back to prison.

Earlier, Charles Aronberg, an opthalmologist, testified that multiple fractures suffered by Mr King were caused by baton blows. This is a considerable setback to the defence which has disputed the cause and severity of his wounds. 'My examination indicated they were localised blows. Someone suggested it could be from a fall to the pavement. That is out of the question,' Dr Aronberg said. Some of Mr King's bones were struck so hard they 'were reduced to a powder-like substance like sand, the fractures were so many', he said.

The trial is being followed with intense interest in Los Angeles, a racially-mixed city whose citizens take differing views of the case. While many - especially minority groups - hope the officers will be convicted, a substantial number feel that it is fundamentally unfair to try them for a second time. It is being closely monitored by the police, who have been undertaking intensive riot training.

Comments