Rodney and Rudy in the news; raise the curtains...

Behind The News
December 1, 2007 9:05:08 AM PST
I remember the first time I saw the police beating of Rodney King, in March, 1991. I was working at a TV station in Los Angeles and we all gathered around a tape machine and just watched. We counted how many times the four LAPD officers hit King, after he had led them on a high-speed chase. King, who had a record of drunk driving, said he didn't pull over because he was afraid of the cops, and afraid of going back to prison.

The cops said they thought King was under the influence of PCP because he seemed slightly immune to their tasers and their batons. So they kept beating him.

Across the street in his apartment in the San Fernando Valley, a man named George Holliday saw the whole thing. And his home video camera was rolling.

What he recorded changed the course of events in Los Angeles for the next few years.

The tape was debated and dissected, and the LAPD's tactics came under intense scrutiny.

The four cops were charged and tried. And when they were acquitted a year later, all hell broke loose.

I was at the courthouse in Simi Valley as the verdicts were read. I walked into the parking lot, saw the hundreds of people gathered, heard their anger - felt it really -- and quickly realized the anger would quickly reverberate and be felt in ugly ways.

The L.A. riots of 1992 were indeed ugly -- nearly 60 people killed, more than 2,000 injured, about $1 billion in property damage from fires and the gutting of thousands of businesses.

I remember driving with a crew past an auction house run by an old family friend -- a store that had been in business for 60 years, a store that employed mostly African Americans. I called our friend -- my mom's first boyfriend back in high school. "Bob, your store's on fire."

The riots ended four days later.

But it wasn't over, not by a long shot. There are those who say the acquittal of O.J. Simpson in 1995 for the murders of his wife and her friend was the direct result of the anger that people, especially African Americans, felt toward the LAPD. Jury nullification is what they called the acquittal, despite the evidence that pointed to Mr. Simpson as the killer; jury nullification to send a message about how cops in Los Angeles treat blacks.

It all came back to me -- the beating, the trial, the later re-trial on federal civil rights charges (the cops were found guilty of that), and the Simpson verdict -- this afternoon as word came in that Rodney King had been shot in San Bernardino, just outside of L.A.

It happened last night - on a street corner. King was hit in the face and arm with a shotgun, and then somehow biked to his home before reporting the incident. It sounds a bit screwy, yes. And the details are still coming out. The injuries are not life-threatening. We'll have the latest, tonight at 11.

Also at 11, Barack Obama is in New York tonight for a fundraiser at the Apollo Theater in Harlem. Our political reporter Dave Evans is there tonight.

And we're also following the latest developments in the new controversy surrounding Rudy Giuliani. Did he try to cover up his extramarital affair with Judith Nathan in 1999 and 2000 when someone bills for NYPD weekend security found their way into the budgets of three little-known City agencies? Tonight, Giuliani talks to us about the controversy.

And the show goes on tonight -- on Broadway that is. The theater district is opening its eyes and turning on its lights again, after a nearly three-week strike by stagehands. Jen Maxfield is there for us, covering not just the opening of productions but also the re-opening of businesses that were severely affected by the strike.

We'll also have any breaking news of the night, plus Lee Goldberg's AccuWeather forecast, and Scott Clark with the night's sports. I hope you can join Liz Cho and me, tonight at 11.