George Holliday, who filmed 1991 Rodney King beating video, dies of COVID-19

SIMI VALLEY, Calif. — George Holliday, the plumber who gained national recognition for filming the 1991 beating of Black motorist Rodney King by white Los Angeles police officers, died Sunday of COVID-19 complications, multiple media outlets reported.

Family friend Robert Wollenweber told The Washington Post that 61-year-old Holliday died at a Simi Valley hospital, where he had been receiving COVID-19 treatment for about a month.

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According to KTTV, Holliday stood on the balcony of his apartment on March 3, 1991, and used his Sony Video8 Handycam to record the four white Los Angeles police officers using batons, stun guns and their feet to subdue a Black man later identified as King.

King, an unemployed construction worker who had been drinking and was on probation for a robbery conviction at the time of the violent confrontation, was left with skull fractures, broken bones and teeth and permanent brain damage, the TV station reported.

When the four officers involved in the King beating were acquitted a year later of excessive use of force, five days of rioting erupted across Los Angeles, resulting in 54 deaths, some 2,400 injuries, more than 12,000 arrests, dozens of destroyed buildings and other property damage, KTTV reported.

The acquitted officers were later convicted of violating King’s civil rights in a federal court trial, the TV station reported.

The grainy, black-and-white video Holliday shot of King’s beating, first broadcast by KTLA, became “seared into the national consciousness” as hundreds of television stations played and replayed the footage throughout the trial and aftermath, the Post reported.

The newspaper also characterized the footage, a precursor to contemporary viral videos, as an early bastion of citizen journalism, “in which a bystander with a camcorder or cellphone could document a historic event that might otherwise be overlooked.”

According to the Post, Holliday told journalists throughout the past 30 years that his mother was German and that his father was a British executive at Shell oil. He was born in Canada, lived in Indonesia, but spent most of his childhood in Argentina before relocating to Los Angeles around 1980 in search of employment.

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