About 10 other witnesses offered similar, though slightly varying accounts to Times reporters. One witness, Dawn Davis, reported seeing 10 officers pointing their guns at the car. None of the witnesses said they saw King fight back after the beating began.
Davis, 26, said she heard one officer yell, "Fighting!" Six of the officers then wrestled King to the ground and began to hit him with their batons.
"He was face down and he wasn't fighting or anything," Davis said, "and then they were still hitting on him."
Two or three officers carried on the beating, Davis said, interrupted only by a plainclothes officer who tried to stop them. Davis said he was shoved aside.
"We heard a cop say, 'Put your hands behind your back' and every time he'd move, they'd hit him again," she said. "I was crying. I was praying for the guy. . . ."
King said the beating began after he was shot by the stun gun.
"They struck me across the face with a billy club after I was laying face down with my hands tied," King said.
It does not appear on Holliday's videotape that King's hands are tied.
The tape begins with King on his knees as he receives 10 quick blows from an officer's baton. It shows about a dozen officers gathered around King, watching. King begins to stand up and lifts an arm, somewhat meekly it appears, in an attempt to ward off the blows. King then tumbles to the ground, falling on his stomach, as the officers continue to deliver blows against the back of his legs. King rolls over onto his back, and one officer strikes him across the midsection with a baton.
Throughout the tape, one officer holds a long metal wire that appears to be attached to King--most likely a line from a Taser stun gun.
King rises to his knees again, and an officer delivers several quick blows with a baton across his back. One officer kicks King, who falls to the ground. Another officer then stomps on King's neck, but King rises to his knees again.
In all, the officers hit the man at least 40 times on the tape. Finally, about six officers converge on King, and one appears to place handcuffs on him.
Witnesses said that as the beating unfolded, roughly 20 tenants stepped out of their apartments to watch. Some on the ground floor peered through a security fence. On the street, traffic slowed as drivers tried to see what was going on. Police had to urge them to drive on.
One woman, who asked not to be identified, said that two girls stood in front of the apartment and began to scream: "Oh my God, they're beating him to death. . . . What are they going to do, kill him?"
Dorothy Gibson, a 52-year-old nurse, said she heard King cry out: "Please stop, please stop."
Said another witness, who asked not to be identified: "They weren't beating him to subdue him; it was like they were really angry. One in particular kept hitting him and hitting him. The others just backed away."
Written reports submitted afterward by the officers told a much different story. According to LAPD Detective Richard Talkington, who reviewed the reports as part of his investigation into the initial traffic stop, the officers reported that King refused requests to exit the vehicle. When he finally stepped out of the car, King placed his left hand in his pants pocket, causing the officers to fear he may have a weapon.
The reports said King lay on the ground and attempted to stand up while being handcuffed, causing an officer to fall to the ground. A fight between King and the officers ensued, the report said.
King charged at the officers, the report said, and kicked and swung at them, even after they fired a Taser gun at him.
On Wednesday, King denied having fought the officers. "I wouldn't strike back. I don't think no one would strike back against four or five guns aimed at him."
Eventually, the reports said, King was subdued by the officers. Paramedics were summoned and King was transported to a Sun Valley hospital.
King would later tell his attorney, Robert Rentzer, that moments after the beating stopped he thought he must be dead because some officers had taken a sheet and thrown it over his head. King, according to Rentzer, said he wondered: "If this is what it is being dead, why do I feel this way?"
A second apartment tenant videotaped the incident in its latter stages. The tape shows King on the ground with his arms tied behind his back and officers milling about as they wait for an ambulance.
King was bleeding badly when he arrived at Pacifica Hospital of the Valley. Dr. Antonio Mancia, an emergency room physician, treated him. The doctor said he was startled by the injuries, which included a large bruise to the chest. King also had numerous cuts to the face requiring 20 stitches, including five on the inside of his mouth.
"I was surprised there were so many lacerations," Mancia said. "There were so many lacerations I gave him intravenous fluids and antibiotics" to prevent infections and help with his blood loss.