DAMIAN WILLIAMS

Mike Nelson / AFP / Getty
Wednesday, Apr. 25, 2007 – TIME Magazine
Damian Monroe Williams waves to his mother on October 18, 1993, in court. Williams was found guilty of one felony count of mayhem and several misdemeanor counts in the beating of Reginald Denny during the 1992 Los Angeles riots.

Damian Williams, a former high-school football star, was part of one of the riots’ most enduring, excruciating images — the vicious attack of a white truck driver named Reginald Denny.

The intesection of Florence and Normandie had already escalated into violence, several hours after residents had heard about the verdicts in the Rodney King beating case, and now unsuspecting drivers on their way to downtown Los Angeles, became the victims of their rage.

One of the unluckiest people on this route was Denny, who was oblivious to what was transpiring in the neighborhood.

Rioters jumped onto the rig, pulled Denny from the cab of his truck and began to inflict a horrific beating, all recorded from above by a news chopper. Williams bashed Denny’s head with a cinderblock, while another rioter, Henry Keith Watson stood on his neck and another spat on him; a motorcyclist even shot at the truck’s gas tank, but fortunately missed. Williams was arrested days later, but, after his lawyers successfully argued that he had not intended to kill Denny (saying the prosecutors were scapegoating the two), Williams escaped the most serious charges against him of attempted murder, assault and aggravated mayhem and was convicted instead of only four misdemeanors and simple mayhem.

Williams was released after serving four years of his 10-year sentence, but soon found himself back in jail. He was convicted of participating in the 2000 murder of an L.A. drug dealer, and in 2003 was sentenced to 46 years in prison. He is currently serving his sentence at Pelican Bay State Prison, according to California Corrections Department officials.

Jesse Singal

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