George Holliday, the man who videotaped the beating of Rodney King by four Los Angeles Police Department officers, has died from COVID-19.
Holliday, the Los Angeles plumber who shot grainy video of four white police officers beating the Black motorist in 1991, died Sunday at a Los Angeles hospital from complications of COVID-19.
Holliday, 61, was in the hospital for more than a month, according to Robert Wollenweber, a longtime friend and former coworker. A call to Holliday’s brother wasn’t answered, but the voicemail message said he couldn’t answer because he was “mourning.”
Holliday wasn’t vaccinated and was on a ventilator in recent days after contracting pneumonia, said Wollenweber.
Holliday had recently acquired a new video camera when was awakened by noise from a traffic stop outside his San Fernando Valley home on the night of March 3, 1991, when King was arrested after a high-speed chase, for driving while intoxicated on I-210.
Holliday filmed the incident from his balcony and sent the footage to local news station KTLA after he captured video of the Los Angeles officers punching, kicking and using a stun gun on the unarmed King, even after he was on the ground. The incident was covered by news media around the world and caused a public furor.
A year later, Holliday’s out-of-focus video – about 9 minutes worth – was a key piece of evidence at the four officers’ criminal trial for assault and excessive use of force.
When a jury acquitted all the officers on April 29, 1992, the city erupted in widespread violence. Hundreds of businesses were looted and destroyed over several days. Entire blocks of homes and stores went up in flames.
The rioting lasted six days and resulted in 63 deaths, 2,383 injuries, more than 7,000 fires, damage to 3,100 businesses, and nearly $1 billion in financial losses. It ended only after the California Army National Guard, the Army, and the Marine Corps provided reinforcements to re-establish control in South Los Angeles.
The uprising seemed to catch the rest of the nation by surprise, but longtime residents said tensions were building in South L.A. for years and the King verdict was just the tipping point.
King sued Los Angeles over the beating and was awarded $3.8 million in 1994, but he told The AP in 2012 that he lost most of that money to bad investments. King drowned in his backyard swimming pool on June 17, 2012, at age 47.
Holliday put the Sony camcorder he used to record the beating up for auction last July, with bidding starting at $225,000. It was unclear if it ever sold.
Holliday told the New York Times last year that he was still working as a plumber and never profited from the video.
He said he had purchased the camera about a month earlier and he grabbed it instinctively when he was awakened by noise outside his window.
“You know how it is when you have a new piece of technology,” he told the Times. “You film anything and everything.”
Holliday said in 2017 that he was working on a documentary about his role in the King case, but it was unclear if anything became of that project.