LAPD officers Stacey Koon and Laurence Powell were sentenced to 30 months in prison for violating motorist Rodney King’s civil rights.
KOON & POWELL’S PART IN THE KING BEATING:
King was tasered twice and he overcame the effects of both tasings. After King was struck by Koon’s Taser the second time is the approximate start of the George Holliday videotape of the incident. In the tape, King is seen on the ground. He rises and rushes toward Powell and what was argued in court as either to attack Powell or to flee but regardless King and Powell both collided in the rush. Taser wire can be seen in King’s body.
Officer Powell strikes King with his baton. The blow strikes King and King is knocked to the ground. Powell strikes King several more times with his baton. Briseno moves in, attempting to stop Powell from striking again, and Powell stands back. Koon reportedly said, “That’s enough.” Rodney King then rises again, to his knees, Powell and Wind are then seen hitting King with their batons.
Koon acknowledged ordering the continued use of batons, directing Powell and Wind to strike King with “power strokes.” According to Koon, Powell and Wind used “bursts of power strokes, then backed off.” In the videotape, King continues to try and stand again. Koon orders the officers to “hit his joints, hit the wrists, hit his elbows, hit his knees, hit his ankles.” Officers Wind, Briseno, and Powell attempted numerous baton strikes on King resulting in some misses but with 33 blows hitting King, plus 6 kicks. The officers again “swarm” King but this time a total of eight officers are involved in the swarm.
King is then placed in handcuffs and cordcuffs, restraining his arms and legs. King is dragged on his abdomen to the side of the road to await the arrival of emergency medical rescue.
The initial sentencing of officers Powell and Koon was appealed to the United States Supreme Court on the issue of whether the Federal District Court properly applied departures from the Federal Sentencing Guidelines when it granted two downward departures to 30 months from section 242 of the sentencing guidelines, in Koon v. United States, 518 US 81 (1996).
Ultimately, the Court affirmed the lower court and allowed the officers’ sentences to be significantly reduced to 30 months due to four factors: King’s own provocation, the officers’ susceptibility to abuse in prison, their successive prosecutions in state and federal courts, and the unlikelihood of them repeating the same crime, as any felony conviction rendered both of them ineligible for future law enforcement employment.
Koon served his sentence at the Federal Correctional Institution inDublin, California, and the Federal Work Camp in Sheridan, Oregon. He was released on October 15, 1995 to a Riverside County, California halfway house.
In November 1995, a gunman entered the halfway house and demanded to know where Koon was. Koon was on a holiday pass at the time. The gunman took three hostages, one of whom he later shot and killed.
●In his 1992 book, Presumed Guilty: The Tragedy of the Rodney King Affair, Koon defended his actions and blamed the riots on the media and community leaders.
●Both Koon and his fellow LAPD officer Laurence Powell have been used as symbols of racism in hip hop and related music. The activist alternative rap-metal group Rage Against the Machinementions Koon in their song “Vietnow” (Evil Empire, 1996), which criticizes the foreign and domestic policy of the United States as violently racist.
●The 1992 song “Guerillas in the Mist” by Da Lench Mob uses a sample of the phrase “gorillas in the mist” uttered by Powell. The LAPD officer had used the phrase to describe a black family in a domestic dispute that he responded to just before stopping King.