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King Re-Enacts Beating at Trial of Suit Against City : Courts: 'I could hear my bones crunching,' he tells jurors. He says he feared for his life as officers hit him.

March 29, 1994|LINDA DEUTSCH | ASSOCIATED PRESS

A soft-spoken Rodney G. King got down on a courtroom floor Monday, re-enacted portions of his 1991 beating by police and told jurors: "I felt like I had been raped."

As batons smashed into his head, he recalled, "I felt like I had lost half of my face. . . . I could hear my bones crunching every time the baton hit me.

"It sounded like throwing an egg and hearing the shell crack," he testified.

When officers hogtied him and dragged him to the side of the road, "I felt like a cow that was waiting to be slaughtered, like a piece of meat," King said.

"I was just so scared," he continued. "I felt like I was going to die."

King was testifying in his lawsuit against the city of Los Angeles for damages stemming from his March 3, 1991, beating by four Los Angeles police officers. He is asking for $9.5 million.

King, who is black, was beaten by the white officers after a traffic stop in Lake View Terrace. The beating was videotaped by a resident and broadcast widely, prompting an investigation of police brutality around the nation.

The officers were acquitted of nearly all assault charges in a 1992 state trial, whose verdicts sparked three days of rioting in Los Angeles. Two of the officers were convicted last year in federal court of violating King's civil rights and were sentenced to 30 months in prison.

The city has admitted liability, but jurors have been asked to set a damage figure. In the second phase of the trial, they will try to allocate blame to individual defendants, including former Police Chief Daryl F. Gates and the four officers, for punitive damages.

King, who rejected the city's $1.25-million settlement offer, was asked whether he felt the beating was unusual.

"I had a feeling that this happens all the time," he said. "I just happened to run into the wrong pack of dogs, police officers."

Asked to recount what happened, King, 28, recalled an evening that began in celebration of his winning back his job with a construction company.

"I was very proud of myself for having got back with my company," said King, who had served time in prison for robbery. He admitted drinking too much beer and champagne that night and said he tried to elude a police traffic stop because he feared going back to prison.

When police caught up with him, he said, he tried to comply with orders to get down on the ground.

Under questioning by his lawyer, Milton Grimes, King left the witness stand twice and got onto the floor to show jurors the position he was in when struck by police batons and boots.

He said that as his mouth filled with blood, he heard police yell, "We're gonna kill you, nigger!. Run!" He said he ran to get away.

"I felt like I had been raped (of) my decency and manhood," he said quietly. "I heard them say 'nigger, nigger' and 'killer.' "

"How did you feel?" Grimes asked.

"Very scared for my life," King said. "I knew they were going to try to kill me when they started saying 'nigger' and 'killer.' "

At last year's federal trial, King made the same claims but later said he was not sure about the racial remarks.

Doctors have testified in the current trial that King suffered injuries that could have killed him.

King said his wounds were psychological as well as physical.

"I felt that I had been stripped of my decency and my will as a human being," he said. "I felt helpless. I felt scared, confused and very weak."

In his only allusion to the political impact of the case, he said: "I felt I had landed somewhere in the world not in the United States. The officers, the words, the racial slurs they were using that night, I thought I was somewhere else, not here."

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