In 1991, four Los Angeles police officers had brutally beaten Rodney King, an African-American motorist, after a high-speed pursuit. The incident was caught on videotape, and the footage was aired repeatedly on television news for an entire year. The use of force seemed so excessive that many people believed the officers could never walk away from the trial as free men. However, on April 29, 1992, all four officers were acquitted.
Thousands responded to the verdict by engaging in widespread arson, assault and looting, killing 53 people and injuring thousands more. The unrest went on for six days and did not die down until the National Guard was deployed to the area. When it was all over, more than 1000 buildings had been destroyed by fire, and most assessments of the damage put its cost at almost $1 billion, making it the costliest episode by far of civil unrest in United States history.