“Twilight”: A Time Line

AUG 30, 2022

March 1991 – December 1993


March 3: Los Angeles Police officers beat, subdue, and arrest Rodney G. King. George Holliday, a resident of a nearby apartment, captures the beating on videotape and distributes it to CNN and other stations; it is soon seen around the world.

March 6: Police Chief Daryl F. Gates calls beating an “aberration.” Community leaders call for Gates’ resignation.

March 7: King is released after the district attorney announces there is not enough evidence to file criminal charges.

March 15: Four Los Angeles police officers—Sergeant Stacey C. Koon and officers Laurence M. Powell, Timothy E. Wind, and Theodore J. Briseno—are arraigned on felony charges stemming from the King beating.

March 16: A store security camera records the fatal shooting of fifteen-year-old Latasha Harlins, an African-American girl, by Korean-American Soon Ja Du in a South Los Angeles liquor store.

March 26: The four police officers charged in the King beating plead not guilty. Soon Ja Du is arraigned on one count of murder.

March 28: Records show that $11.3 million was paid to victims of police brutality by the city of Los Angeles in 1990 to resolve police abuse cases.

April 1: In response to the King beating, Mayor Tom Bradley appoints a commission, headed by former deputy secretary of state Warren Christopher, to investigate the Los Angeles Police Department.

April 4: The Los Angeles Police Commission places Gates on sixty-day leave.

April 5: The city council orders the reinstatement of Gates.

April 7: Gates takes disciplinary action against the four criminally charged officers. He fires probationary officer Timothy Wind and suspends the other three without pay.

May 10: A grand jury decides not to indict any of the nineteen officers who were bystanders at the beating. The police department later disciplines ten of them.

July 9: The Christopher Commission report is released; it suggests Gates and the entire Police Commission step down.

July 10: Gates strips Assistant Chief David D. Dotson of his command after he complained openly of the chief’s record in disciplining officers.

July 16: The Police Commission orders Gates to reinstate Dotson.

July 22: Gates announces he will retire in 1992.

July 23: The State Second District Court of Appeal orders the trial of the four LAPD officers moved out of Los Angeles Country.

September 30: The prosecution in the Soon Ja Du–Latasha Harlins trial begins its case.

October 1: The police commission approves the vast majority of the 129 reform recommendations issued by the Christopher Commission.

October 11: The jury in Soon Ja Du’s case returns a verdict: Du is found guilty of voluntary manslaughter.

November 6: The Los Angeles City Council approves spending $7.1 million to settle claims of police brutality and excessive force. Total payments for the year exceed $13 million.

November 15: Compton Superior Court Judge Joyce Ann Karlin sentences Soon Ja Du to five years probation, four hundred hours of community service, and a five-hundred-dollar fine for the shooting death of Latasha Harlins. State Senator Diane Watson said, “This might be the time bomb that explodes.”

November 26: Judge Stanley M. Weisberg chooses Simi Valley in neighboring Ventura County as the new venue for the trial of the officers charged in the King beating.

November 29: LAPD officers fatally shoot a Black man prompting a standoff with more than one hundred residents in the Imperial Courts housing project in Watts.


February 3: Pretrial motions begin in the trial of the four LAPD officers accused of beating Rodney King.

March 4: Opening arguments begin in the King trial. None of the twelve jurors is African-American.

March 17: Prosecuting attorneys rest in the King trial.

April 3: Officer Briseno testifies that King never posed a threat to the LAPD officers.

April 16: Willie L. Williams, police commissioner in Philadelphia, is named to succeed Gates.

April 23: Jury begins deliberations in the King trial.

April 29: The jury returns not-guilty verdicts on all charges except one count of excessive force against Officer Powell; a mistrial is declared on that count alone. The verdict is carried live on television. Over two thousand people gather for a peaceful rally at First AME Church in South-Central Los Angeles. Violence erupts. Police dispatches relay reports of head wounds, vandalism, and burglary in an ever-widening radius. Reginald Denny is yanked from his truck cab and beaten unconscious at the intersection of Florence and Normandie; the incident is captured on video. Mayor Bradley declares a local emergency. Governor Pete Wilson calls out the National Guard. Fires break out over twenty-five blocks of central Los Angeles.

April 30: Bradley imposes a curfew for the entire city, restricts the sale of gasoline, and bans the sale of ammunition. The Justice Department announces it will resume an investigation into possible civil rights violations in the King beating. Retail outlets are looted and/or burned in South Los Angeles, Koreatown, Hollywood, Mid-Wilshire, Watts, Westwood, Beverly Hills, Compton, Culver City, Hawthorne, Long Beach, Norwalk, and Pomona.

May 1: More than a thousand Korean-Americans and others gather at a peace rally at Western Avenue and Wilshire Boulevard.

May 2: Clean-up crews hit the streets and volunteers truck food and clothing into the hardest-hit neighborhoods. Thirty thousand people march through Koreatown in support of beleaguered merchants, calling for peace between Korean-Americans and Blacks. Mayor Bradley appoints Peter Ueberroth to head the Rebuild LA effort. President Bush declares Los Angeles a disaster area.

May 3: The Los Angeles Times reports 58 deaths; 2,383 injuries; more than 7,000 fire responses; 12,111 arrests; 3.100 businesses damaged. The South Korean Foreign Ministry announces it will seek reparations for Korean-American merchants who suffered damages during the unrest.

May 4: With troops guarding the streets, Los Angeles residents return to work and school. Twenty to forty thousand people have been put out of work because their places of business were looted or burned. In violation of long-standing policy, LAPD officers cooperate with the Immigration and Naturalization Service and begin arresting illegal immigrants suspected of riot-related crimes. Suspects are turned over to the INS for probable deportation.

May 6: President Bush receives a telegram from Representative Dana Rohrabacher (Republican, Huntington Beach) demanding quick deportation of illegal immigrants arrested during the riots.

May 8: Federal troops begin to pull out from Los Angeles. The Crips and Bloods (the two major gangs in Los Angeles) announce plans for a truce.

May 11: Los Angeles Board of Police Commissioners appoints William H. Webster, former director of both the FBI and the CIA, to head a commission to study the LAPD’s performance during the civil unrest.

May 12: Damian Williams, Antoine Miller, and Henry K. Watson are arrested for the beating of Reginald Denny on April 29. Gary Williams surrenders to police later that day. They quickly become known as the L.A. Four.

May 16: Led by mayors of many of the nation’s largest cities, tens of thousands of protesters demonstrate in the nation’s capital demanding billions of federal dollars in vast urban aid.

May 19: A mistrial is declared in the case of a Compton police officer accused of fatally shooting two Samoan brothers brothers a total of nineteen times, mostly in their backs. The jury was deadlocked nine to three in favor of acquittal.

May 21: Damian Williams, Henry K. Watson, and Antoine Miller are arraigned on thirty-three charges for offenses against thirteen motorists at the intersection of Florence and Normandie, including the attack on Reginald Denny. Bail is set at $580,000 for Williams, $500,000 for Watson, and $250,000 for Miller. None is able to post bail.

May 25: Korean grocers and leaders from the Bloods and Crips meet to discuss an alliance.

May 30: Chief Gates steps down. Willie Williams is sworn in.

July 7: Korean-American protesters are pelted with office supplies tossed from city hall windows during seventeenth day of protests over poor treatment from government officials since the riots.

September 24: Mayor Tom Bradley announces that he will not seek reelection the following June.

October 17: The Webster Commission reports that deficiencies in the LAPD leadership led to failure to respond quickly to April’s civil unrest.

November 10: The trial date for defendants in the Reginald Denny beating is set for March 15, 1993.

November 17: The Black-Korean Alliance members vote to disband.

December 14: The intersection of Florence and Normandie flares again as the Free the L.A. Four Defense Committee protests at the site of Denny’s beating.


January 22: Superior Court Judge John W. Ouderkirk dismisses ten charges against the defendants in the L.A. Four case, including charges of torture and aggravated mayhem. The charges of attempted murder stand.

February 3: The federal civil rights trial against the four police officers begins.

April 7: Judge Ouderkirk grants the defense in the Reginald Denny case additional time for preparation.

April 17: The verdicts are returned in the federal King civil rights trial. Officers Briseno and Wind are acquitted. Officer Powell and Sergeant Koon are found guilty of violating Rodney King’s civil rights.

May 21: Peter Ueberroth resigns as cochairman of Rebuild L.A.

August 4: Sergeant Koon and Officer Powell are each sentenced to thirty-month prison terms.

August 19: The much-anticipated Reginald Denny beating trial begins in Los Angeles. Damian Williams, twenty, and Henry K. Watson, twenty-nine, are charged with a list of crimes including attempted murder of Reginald Denny and others in South Central near the corner of Florence and Normandie.

September 28: Final arguments begin in the Denny trial.

October 11: Judge Ouderkirk dismisses a juror for “failing to deliberate as the law defines it.” The juror is replaced with an alternate.

October 12: Judge Ouderkirk removes a second juror, who asked to be excused for personal reasons, from the jury in the Reginald Denny trial.

October 18: Damian Williams and Henry Keith Watson are acquitted of many of the counts against them.

December 7: Damian Williams sentenced to a maximum of ten years in prison for attacks on Reginald Denny.

Excerpted from the Center Theatre Group/Mark Taper Forum program. The program was edited by Ken Werther and the time line was originally compiled by Mara Isaacs and subsequently revised by the McCarter Theatre in Princeton, New Jersey.

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