Major players in the 1992 Los Angeles riot

Associated Press Modified: June 17, 2012 at 12:19 pm •  Published: June 17, 2012


Gates had been Los Angeles' chief of police for 14 years when the rioting erupted and was pressured to retire shortly afterward. Until then, he had been nationally respected for pioneering such innovations in policing as the special weapons and tactics (SWAT) team and the Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE) programs that partner police with schools. But he was also a polarizing force in the city's black community over perceived racism and remarks like one he made that blacks were more likely to die when placed in police chokeholds because their arteries did not reopen as quickly as those of "normal people." Gates, who blamed his command staff for letting the riot get out of control, died of cancer in 2010. He was 83.


Denny, the white truck driver who drove into the epicenter of rage and was pulled by several black men from his cab and nearly beaten to death, underwent numerous operations to repair his shattered head, put an eye back into its socket and reset his jaw. After the beating, he publicly forgave his attackers and even met with one of them on Phil Donahue's television show. Since then, he has remained steadfastly out of the limelight, living quietly in Arizona, and declining interview requests. He did not respond to requests for comment from The Associated Press on the riot's 20th anniversary.


Holliday, a plumber, was awakened by a traffic stop outside his San Fernando Valley home on the night of March 3, 1991. He went outside to film it with his new video camera, catching four officers beating and kicking black motorist Rodney King. The video's subsequent broadcast led to worldwide outrage and criminal charges against the officers. When they were acquitted the following year, the riot broke out. Holliday declined to discuss the 20th anniversary of the riot. A friend, Roby Massarotto, told The Associated Press he is busy working on a documentary about the making of his famous video.


King's videotaped beating on the night of March 3, 1991, triggered the riot more than a year later when the officers who beat him were acquitted of all charges. During the ensuing violence, he went on national TV to plead with people, "Can we all get along?" In the years after, he was arrested numerous times, mainly for alcohol-related crimes, and has made several attempts at rehabilitation, including an appearance on television's "Celebrity Rehab." He received a $3.8 million settlement from the city but recently told The Associated Press much of that money was lost to bad investments.


Watson was one of several men videotaped attacking white truck driver Reginald Denny at the beginning of the riot. He was convicted of misdemeanor assault and sentenced to time served for the 17 months he spent in jail before his case was resolved. Watson, who later apologized to Denny, is a successful businessman who operates his own limousine business in Los Angeles. He has two daughters in college and recently returned to his childhood home, near the site where Denny was attacked, to care for his elderly mother.


Williams was the attacker seen on videotape smashing Denny in the back of the head with a brick. He was convicted of mayhem, assault and other charges and sentenced to 10 years in prison. Released after four years, he was convicted of the 2000 murder of a Los Angeles drug dealer and sentenced to 46 years to life in prison, where he remains.


Miller was convicted of robbing Denny during the beating and sentenced to 27 months of probation. He was shot to death in a Hollywood nightclub in 2005.


Williams, who was videotaped going through Denny's pockets as he lay on the ground, pleaded guilty to beating and attempting to rob the truck driver. He was sentenced to three years in prison.

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