Rodney King stands near the site of his 1991 beating by police officers in Lake View Terrace, California, in this 2011 photo.
Rodney King stands near the site of his 1991 beating by police officers in Lake View Terrace, California, in this 2011 photo.
PHOTO: Stan Wilson/CNN

Story highlights

Rodney King was not surprised at the charges against Zimmerman, he says

King says it was Trayvon who was heard screaming that night

Riots broke out in Los Angeles 20 years ago over the King verdict

(CNN) —  

When Florida authorities announced they were charging George Zimmerman with second degree murder in the killing of unarmed Florida teenager Trayvon Martin, Rodney King told CNN he was not surprised.

“The justice system takes so long but it works and I am waiting, like the rest of us, to get to the facts and carefully, thoroughly, get to the truth without drawing conclusions,” he said Thursday.

While many of the facts in the case are not yet clear, King said he’s sure about one thing: the identity of the person whose screams were heard on a 911 call made by a neighbor the night of the shooting.

“It’s a death scream that I know very well and I have no doubt in my mind that it came from Trayvon Martin,” he said.

King’s 1991 beating by Los Angeles police officers following a traffic stop was captured on video by a nearby resident. Four officers were indicted as a result. Their trial the following year led to three acquittals and a mistrial in the predominantly white suburb of Simi Valley – verdicts that set off three days of riots and looting in predominately African-American neighborhoods.

By the time it was over, 55 people were dead, more than 2,000 were hurt, and property damage exceeded $1 billion. Two of the officers were later convicted of federal civil rights charges, and King won $3.8 million in damages from the city in a civil suit.

April 29 marks the 20th anniversary of the riots.

“The horrifying sound of a young black male screaming for his life on a 911 call reminded me of my horrifying scream on a videotape 20 years ago,” King said. “At that time, I thought I was going to die. Very, very gratefully, I survived. Unfortunately, Trayvon Martin did not.”

“Twenty years after the riots, I still consider myself lucky to have survived that beating,” he said.

King was on parole for robbery at the time of the beating and has had several run-ins with the law in the ensuing years, in part because of his struggle with alcohol addiction. In February, King pleaded guilty to misdemeanor reckless driving.

As for the Martin tragedy, King pleaded for calm.

“I am grieving, like the rest of us, for this young man and his family but let’s allow the justice system to take its course and come together as a country before and after the outcome of the case,” he said.

Those comments echoed a similar plea King made 20 years ago as Los Angeles erupted in flames.

In a CNN documentary marking the 20th anniversary of the beating, King reflected on that day, telling CNN’s Don Lemon, “I was tired of seeing the same hateful thing going on in our country.”