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Rodney King death ruled accidental

SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. -- Rodney King had been drinking and was on drugs when he plunged into a swimming pool and accidentally drowned in June, a coroner's report released yesterday concluded.

The report confirmed a previous police conclusion that King died by accident, and the case will be closed, Rialto police Capt. Randy DeAnda said.

King, whose videotaped beating by Los Angeles police in 1991 led to deadly rioting, had long struggled with addiction.

A call from King's fiancee brought police to his Rialto home at 5:30 a.m. on June 17. Officers pulled him from the bottom of the pool, and he was pronounced dead at a hospital.

Cynthia Kelley told authorities she was in bed when she was awakened and saw King at a patio door. When King fell over a planter, Kelley went for her cellphone to call for help. She heard a splash and by the time she got to the pool, King was facedown in the deep end.

The San Bernardino County coroner's report listed the cause of death as drowning "and the contributing cause was combined with ethanol (alcohol) and multiple drug toxicity," DeAnda said.

Toxicology tests showed that King had a blood-alcohol level of .06 and amounts of PCP, cocaine and marijuana in his system, the captain said.

"Obviously, the effects of the drugs and alcohol combined precipitated some kind of cardiac arrhythmia, thus incapacitated Mr. King, and he was unable to save himself." Arrhythmia is an irregular heartbeat.

King's death occurred just months after the 20th anniversary of the Los Angeles riot brought him renewed attention.

In March 1991, King, then 25, led authorities on a high-speed chase that ended on a darkened street. He was stopped by four Los Angeles police officers who were videotaped striking him more than 50 times with batons, kicking him and shooting him with stun guns. He suffered 11 skull fractures, a broken eye socket and facial nerve damage.

On April 29, 1992, a jury with no black members acquitted three officers on state charges and a mistrial was declared for a fourth. Within hours Los Angeles was engulfed in violence and flames. Fifty-five people died and more than 2,000 were injured.

At the height of the rioting, King made his plea for peace, saying, "Can we all get along?"

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