In 1992, Los Angeles police officers were charged–then acquitted–of assaulting Rodney King.
The news sparked riots in the city, and no neighborhood was hit harder than South Central LA.
KJLH was an urban R&B station located on Crenshaw Boulevard, at the heart of the riots.
Karen Slade, the general manager, Eric “Rico” Reed, a DJ, and Arthur “Sonny” Williams, KJLH’s driver, remember what happened during those days.
For more on KJLH and its coverage of the riots, read KJLH-FM and the Los Angeles Riots of 1992 by Dr. Phylis Johnson.
To see the video that led to the assault charges against the LAPD, click here. WARNING: GRAPHIC IMAGES
Click here for the transcript.
Karen Slade (KS): I'm Karen Slade; I'm the general manager of KJLH radio. We were prepared for people to be unhappy, but we couldn't believe our eyes. People were beyond angry. They were crazy. It's like they lost their mind. The phone started lighting up, and my jocks shut down the music, they stayed on the mic, they took the calls and probably for the next three days, we just became all talk...
Archive Audio DJ: What is your name and where are you calling from?
Archive Audio Caller: Okay, hey, my name is Valen; I'm calling from Compton. They've been having fires out here. They say the guy got trapped in the building...
Archive Audio DJ: What is the situation in that neighborhood right now?
Archive Audio Caller: A lot of smoke. A lot of fires. A lot of gunshots.
Archive Audio DJ #2: Brothers, please, please stay indoors. Please, Please take care of yourselves.
Eric Reed (ER): My name is Eric "Rico" Reed. Where we sat, our studio, we had a picture window. And it was just like looking at a movie screen. And we're looking right across the street at the TV repair shop. And we're watching people take something, throw it through the window, grab a broken TV, and I say, "I can't believe this guy. It's a TV repair shop. The TVs don't even work...."
Archive Audio Eric Reed: ...they don't even work man, they just stealing them to be stealing them. It makes no sense.
ER: It was crazy.
Archive Audio Caller #2: There's a fire truck missing right now and, uh...
Archive Audio DJs: A fire truck?
Archive Audio Caller #2: A fire truck. A fire truck has been stolen.
Arthur Williams (AW): My name is Arthur Williams. We saw an Hispanic guy; he was being beat severely. And a black priest went out in the middle of the street and held his bible up and draped his-self over the guy that everybody was beating, and, uh, they dispersed. You know, what he did was unbelievable. So, I said he's a hero.
ER: It took almost forever to get stores back in the community that were burnt to the ground.
KS: It was very disheartening. But the knuckleheads were few. They were devastating and they had a horrible impact but they didn't destroy the community. One lady came out, and she had some of the neighborhood kids and she got them brooms and everybody was sweeping. They were cleaning up Crenshaw. I had never seen it before [laughs].
ER: There were just so many things that were in our community. Our community wasn't perfect, but it was gorgeous. And some areas haven't come back and probably never will.