LOS ANGELES (AP) – Rodney King was remembered in Los Angeles on Saturday as a forgiving man who bore the scars of his infamous beating with dignity.
The Rev. Al Sharpton, who delivered the eulogy at Forest Lawn Hollywood Hills, said before the funeral that King never showed bitterness to the officers who beat him.
“People should not be judged by the mistakes that they make, but by how they rise above them,” Sharpton said outside the Hall of Freedom at the sprawling cemetery grounds. “Rodney had risen above his mistakes. He never mocked anyone _ not the police, not the justice system, not anyone.”
“He became a symbol of forgiveness,” Sharpton said.
The funeral came nearly two weeks after King was found dead at the bottom of the swimming pool at his Rialto, Calif. home on June 17. He was 47.
Family members held a private service early in the day, followed by a public memorial and burial. Mourners signed a guest book and surveyed newspaper clippings from the days when King dominated headlines in 1991 and 1992. A large photograph of a smiling King was set on an easel.
Daughter Laura Dene King, 28, said she was proud to have had her father in her life for as long as she did, especially considering she almost lost him when she was six years old.
“I will remember his smile, his unconditional love,” she said.
Several donors helped pay for the funeral, the reception afterwards, and other arrangements. Television producer Anthony Zuiker donated $10,000, and said he was at the funeral to show support for King’s family.
“We lost a symbol, but they lost a loved one,” said Zuiker, creator of the CSI: series.
Lawrence Spagnola, who co-authored King’s 2012 book “The Riot Within: My Journey from Rebellion to Redemption,” sat with family members at both services.
The family can be proud of the “amazing degree of grace and wisdom” with which King carried himself after being violently thrust into the media spotlight, Spagnola said.
King’s death is being treated as an accidental drowning but authorities are awaiting autopsy results to determine the official cause of death.
He became famous after his beating by Los Angeles police in 1991 was captured on videotape and broadcast worldwide, as were photos of his bloodied and bruised face.
The images of the grainy video became a national symbol of police brutality. It was played over and over for the following year, inflaming racial tensions across the country.
More than a year later, four officers charged with felony assault in the beating were acquitted by a jury with no black members. The verdict sparked one of the most costly and deadly race riots in U.S. history.
During the unrest, which left more than 50 people dead and caused more than $1 billion in property damage, King famously pleaded for peace by asking, “Can we all get along?”
His famous words were embroidered on the lid of King’s casket, next to a portrait of him.
“He never asked if people would remember Rodney King. But he wondered if they would remember those words,” Spagnola said. “I told him, `long after you’re gone, your words are going to live.’ And I think he took some solace in that.”
(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)
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