RODNEY King, the man who became a reluctant symbol of America's troubled race relations and whose beating by four white police officers led to the worst race riots in modern US history, has been found drowned in his swimming pool after what was apparently a night of drinking and drug taking.
Police were called to Mr King's home by his fiancee, Cynthia Kelley, in the early hours of yesterday morning.
They later said that there were no suspicions of foul play.
Footage of the unarmed Mr King being beaten after a high-speed police chase was captured by a bystander and played over and over on television news, coming to represent what members of the black community said was the casual, racist brutality of the Los Angeles police.
The four officers, who administered more than 50 blows with sticks and a stun gun, were acquitted by a jury in a white suburb of the city, sparking days of rioting, looting and arson that left more than 50 people dead.
Just a few months ago, on the 20th anniversary of the officers' acquittal, Mr King, 47, revealed how hard it was to deal with the celebrity and political potency thrust upon him.
"You don't want to let anybody's expectations down," he told The Los Angeles Times.
"People look at me like I should have been like Malcolm X or Martin Luther King or Rosa Parks.
But it's hard to live up to some people's expectations."
Mr King recently published a book declaring victory in a battle with alcohol and drug abuse that he had waged all his adult life.
The book was called The Riot Within: My Journey From Rebellion To Redemption.