When the four of those white police officers were acquitted the following year, that outrage sparked into the LA riots, the worst single urban outbreak of violence America has seen. More than 50 people were killed, thousands injured, thousands of properties were destroyed by arsonists and it led to a complete restructuring of the way that the Los Angeles police does its work.
It not only had an impact around America and around the world, it really changed the way race was dealt with in this country.
Since that time, Rodney King has struggled to beat his addictions - to alcohol - he's struggled with the law on some occasions as well, but he had recently written a memoir of his life, he'd recently got engaged.
He was due to be married soon - to Cynthia Kelley, a juror in his civil case. When he spoke to the BBC a few weeks ago he said he felt his life was getting on track, things were moving forward, he was very positive.
A later trial resulted in two of the four officers being jailed. King sued the City of Los Angeles and won $3.8m (£2.5m) compensation.
The rioting that gripped LA in the wake of the original not-guilty verdict went on for days, leaving 50 people dead and causing $1bn of damage to the city.
King went on television three days into the rioting to call for calm, pleading that everyone "just get along" - years later he said he wanted that statement to be his legacy.
The Los Angeles Police Department itself was forced to change in the wake of the Rodney King case, which highlighted widespread racism in the largely white, male force.
It was not uncommon for officers to describe African-Americans as "monkeys" and "gorillas", and some police bragged about beating suspects over their patrol car radios.
An independent commission was set up to investigate the issue, chaired by future US Secretary of State Warren Christopher.
It recommended boosting multiculturalism in the police force and the LAPD had slowly shifted to a more community-focused style of policing.
As for Rodney King himself, he got engaged to one of the jurors from his trial and published a book in 2012 titled "The Riot Within: My Journey From Rebellion to Redemption".