Taking a shortcut off the Santa Monica Freeway down Normandie Avenue was nothing out of the ordinary for 33-year-old Reginald Denny. In the late afternoon of April 29, 1992, he had simply loaded up his 18-wheeler and headed down the road, driving for his employer Transit Mixed Concrete. Little did he know that he would drive smack into the middle of an angry mob looking for vengeance.
As his rig crossed Florence, a group of rioters enraged over the Rodney King verdict rushed toward him, pulled him out of the cab and beat him to within an inch of his life. The attack ended when Damian Monroe Williams took a cinderblock and bashed Denny's skull, fracturing it in 91 places and causing severe brain damage.
The only reason he probably did not die that day was because four South Central residents, Bobby Green, Lei Yuille, Titus Murphy and Terri Barnett, who saw the entire incident on television, raced to the scene. Despite the risk to their own lives, they grabbed Denny, put him back into his cab and drove him to a nearby hospital where doctors were able to save his life.
Denny had to undergo years of rehabilitative therapy, but his speech and ability to walk were permanently damaged. After the trial of his assailants, he approached their families in a gesture of forgiveness. He later appeared on the Phil Donahue show to shake hands with one of them, Henry Keith Watson, and finally make peace.
Today, Denny has left Los Angeles behind. TIME made many efforts to contact him through intermediaries but they were unsuccessful; Denny largely avoids the media and rarely speaks about his ordeal. He works independently as a boat motor mechanic in Lake Havasu, Ariz., where he moved after the 1993 trial of his assailants and an unsuccessful lawsuit against the City of Los Angeles. Friends say he has gone on with his life and has even begun to drive again. "He's doing better," says one local who knows Denny. "It's slow for him, but he's getting better."
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