The Sony video camera used to record the March 3, 1991, beating of Rodney King by four Los Angeles police officers will be up for auction Thursday, with bidding set to start at $225,000.
According to Nate D. Sanders Auctions, the camera comes with a notarized letter of authenticity by consignor George Holliday, who used it record the beating from the balcony of his Lake View Terrace apartment. The grainy footage he shot that night is considered the first-ever viral video and made the then-31-year-old plumber a pioneer of citizen journalism.
“I hope this video camera inspires people to use their power to record events that they find troubling. Don’t be afraid to use it,” Holliday said in a statement released by the auction house.
The Sony Video8 Handycam CCD-F77 is identified with the serial number 63299 and includes original accessories of the Sony AC power adapter AC-V16 with the serial number H163476, and the AA battery case EBP-55.
The batteries have been removed to protect the camera, which is no longer functional. The videotape of the beating is not included.
The foam cover of the camera microphone is almost completely deteriorated, which is the condition in which the FBI returned the camera to Holliday circa 2015, according to the auction house, which says the camcorder remains in “very good” condition otherwise.
Holliday recorded the King beating just after midnight, and later that day contacted KTLA, which was the first to air the footage that would be seen around the world.
King, who had been drinking and was on probation for a robbery conviction, was instructed to pull over for speeding on a Los Angeles freeway and eventually stopped his car in front of Holliday’s apartment building, where Los Angeles police officers took charge of the traffic stop.
The noise woke Holliday, who came outside and videotaped four white officers repeatedly beating and kicking the Black motorist, who suffered skull fractures, broken bones and teeth, and permanent brain damage, while other officers looked on.
When the four officers were acquitted a year later of excessive use of force by a jury in Ventura County, five days of rioting ensued in Los Angeles, resulting in 54 deaths, some 2,400 injuries, scores of destroyed buildings and other property damage, and more than 12,000 arrests. The acquitted police officers were later convicted of violating Rodney King’s civil rights in a federal court trial.
King, a Sacramento native, died in Rialto on June 17, 2012, of what was described as an accidental drowning. He was 47. Before his death, he authored “The Riot Within: My Journey from Rebellion to Redemption.”
Additional information on the camera and bidding can be found at natedsanders.com/LotDetail.aspx?inventoryid=58296. Bidding will end at 5 p.m.