"Most of the nation only saw a few snippets where it's the most violent," Stone said. "They didn't see (King) get up and run at Powell."
But African-Americans in Los Angeles exploded in outrage. Rioters ran through the streets -- looting businesses, torching buildings and attacking those who were in the wrong place at the wrong time. The violence was responsible for more than 50 deaths and $1 billion in property damage.
On the third day of rioting, King emerged from seclusion to make a plea: "People, I just want to say, can we all get along? Can we get along?"
The violence ceased, but the debate did not.
Nearly a year later, the four officers stood trial in federal court on civil rights charges. Two African-Americans were picked for the jury, and King testified. He hedged, however, on whether police used racial slurs during the beating. He told CNN in 2011 that slurs were used, but said he vacillated on the stand because his mother had told him to avoid talking about race.
Koon and Powell were found guilty and sentenced to 30 months in prison. Briseno and Wind were acquitted.
"It was like ... I just hope we just get one," King said. "I hope we just get one on that. If we get one, we're good. So to get the two, I was really happy."
King also sued the city of Los Angeles.
"Half of them had no sympathy whatsoever," Kelly, his fiancee, told CNN in 2011 about her fellow jurors. "... They just didn't care. Like, 'He broke the law. He deserved what he got.' I told them they were crazy. It was about justice for what happened to him. No one deserves to get beat like that."
The other jurors came around, and King was awarded $3.8 million in damages.
In later years, King had several more run-ins with the law, including a 90-day jail stint in 1996 for a hit-and-run involving his wife at the time. On the 20th anniversary of the beating in 2011, he was pulled over and ticketed for a minor traffic violation.
"The trouble that (people) see me in is a part of my life that I'm working on," he said in 2011. "I'll always have an issue when it comes to alcohol. My dad was an alcoholic. The addiction part is in my blood. What I've learned to do is arrest my addiction -- arrest it myself, so I don't get arrested."
In 2008, King appeared on the VH1 reality show "Celebrity Rehab." He also released a memoir, "The Riot Within," in which he describes his difficult upbringing and his reflections on the beating and its aftermath.
"He was a wonderful, sweet man," said Bob Forrest, a Los Angeles-based musician and drug counselor who worked with King on "Celebrity Rehab."
He said King struggled with his sobriety. "He and I would talk off and on. Sometimes he was doing great, sometimes not. He was always gracious, an honest and gentle soul."
"He was a wonderful, kind and gentle man," said Dr. Drew Pinsky of "Celebrity Rehab," who also appears on CNN sister network HLN. "He was at the center of a maelstrom and was able to maintain dignity and really keep his head high in a way that was an example for all of us."
The ranks of Los Angeles police are much more diverse than they were at the time of King's beating. Changes have also been made -- some compelled by the courts -- in the way certain neighborhoods are patrolled and how complaints are handled.
Sharpton said in his statement Sunday that he had recently spent time with King discussing the release of his book.
"Through all that he had gone through with his beating and personal demons, he was never one to not call for reconciliation and for his people to overcome and forgive," Sharpton said.
King said last year on the 20th anniversary of his beating that he has forgiven the officers who beat him.