RIALTO (CBS) — A week after he was found dead in the swimming pool of his Rialto home, friends and family gathered this evening to remember the life of Rodney King.
They held a candlelight vigil. Like King’s life, the evening was somber, too brief.
It was the first time his immediate family gathered to mourn publicly.
Edward Lawrence, reporting for CBS2 and KCAL9, was there.
He reported seeing King’s kids and grandchildren. They lit candles along with friends and neighbors.
Eddie Jones led the vigil. “We thank you for the life of Mr. Rodney King,” he said, “we thank God.”
Jones, the president of the Los Angeles Civil Rights Association, said King never asked to be a civil rights leader. The role was forced upon him.
“Great change did come. Unfortunately under the circumstances of 56 hits and licks and kicks that he had to take to make change.”
In 1991, King’s beating at the hands of police officers stunned a nation. Their acquittal set off the deadliest and most costly riots in modern U.S. history.
A peaceful remembrance this evening helped his family heal.
Carmen Simpson is the mother of King’s eldest daughter. “For family and his loved ones, this is very tough. But we will make it. We will make it through.”
King’s grandchildren led the lighting ceremony. One by one they lit the candles. His daughters followed.
They all held back tears and sang one of King’s favorite songs. But many soon became overcome with their grief.
Neighbors still can’t believe he is gone. Said Terry Earl, “You know, I drive by and I am in shock about this.”
Said Wanda Watts, “He was a very quiet person. It was years before I even knew h was here. Because he was very private.”
Lawrence reports that King’s fiance did not attend the vigil. He was told she was also not invited to the funeral.