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What Are Your Memories of the L.A. Riots, 20 Years Later?

Where were you when the riots happened? How did you feel? And what lessons have we learned as Angelenos from the worst rioting in recent memory?

April 29 marks the 20th anniversary of the 1992 L.A. Riots. The widely televised upheaval, also referred to as the 1992 Los Angeles Civil Unrest, was sparked by the acquittal of four LAPD officers—three white and one Latino—who were accused of brutally beating an African American man, Rodney King, in 1991.

Over the next several days, Los Angeles exploded into a frenzy of violence, looting, arson and murder that began in South-Central L.A (now named South L.A.). According to one of the most reliable estimates, the rioting claimed 53 lives, left thousands injured and reportedly damaged property worth $1 billion.

Encino resident (and former Sherman Oaks Patch editor) Doug Kriegel remembers the days of the riot, when he was working in television news.

"After the smoke and fire had died down at some point in the late stages of the riot, we were no longer being protected by security guards," Kriegel told Patch.

"We were doing a story about a guy who was trying to rebuild his business that had been destroyed by fire. My cameraman, Pete Garrow and I were just putting the camera away in the van on 108th and Main—right down there south of 100th street—and all of a sudden, some guy came up to us from a Honda Civic, pulled a gun and said 'Give me your money'. 

"I had $12, Pete had $8, and I had a Timex watch. He said 'Gimme your watch,' and then he said 'Lay face down in the street'. We laid face down in the street while he picked up the stuff we dropped.

"I remember when I was laying in the street I thought, 'Now I'm going to feel what its like to get shot.' I remember feeling afraid, but curious.

"The guy told us, 'Don’t look back," so we just laid there and didn’t do anything. After about 40 seconds, Pete turned round. The guy was taking off, and jumped back in his Honda Civic. Just like the Wild West, he was back on his horse. That feeling was what it was like in that period. There was a lawlessness in the air."

For those of you who lived in Encino, Tarzana or elsewhere in Southern California we want to know what do you remember most about those times? How did you feel? 

We want to know your memories from that time: where were you during those times?  Did you witness rioting?  How did you feel about what was happening? And what lessons have we learned since then?  Please let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.

–additional reporting by Anna King

Marianne Love April 30, 2012 at 12:26 AM
Soon after the riots ended, and maybe during them I'm not sure, I heard of Valley parents taking their young children to "see" the devasation and I remember thinking, "What? Are you out of your mind!"
Wilma April 30, 2012 at 10:47 AM
I worked in downtown L.A.: My employer hired off-duty LAPD detectives to escort us all to our cars. Even then, some scary confrontations took place - my escort had to pull his gun at one point when a guy lunged toward me, calling me profane names. My boss then said I didn't have to work until it was safe - with full pay. I lived in the North Valley (in the foothills) & I was shocked to see black teens breaking into stores near my home - I didn't imagine the riot would affect residents in the Valley. On the first year anniversary, I was working on a 6 month project in Carson - I was terrified there would be another riot. Thank God it didn't happen. Rodney King should not have been beaten and the cops should have been convicted. I think juries and the LAPD all learned a big lesson by the riot, as well as our entire nation.
Leon of Encino April 30, 2012 at 06:44 PM
I own a few guns. People used to ask why. When the riots came they all wanted to come over!!

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