Terri Barnett, Bobby Green, Titus Murphy, and Lei Yuille: African-American Heroes of the 1992 Los Angeles Race Riots

In 1992, race riots broke out in Los Angeles, California, following the acquittal of police officers who had beaten Rodney King, an African-American man. On 29 April 1992, six African-American rioters pulled 33-year-old white truck driver Reginald Denny from his truck and savagely beat him. Four African-American heroes—Terri Barnett, Bobby Green, Titus Murphy, and Lei Yuille—came to his rescue and took him to a hospital. Titus Murphy and his then-girlfriend Terri Barnett saw the attack on Mr. Denny live on TV. The attack was taking place about one and one-half miles from where they were. Mr. Murphy said, “When this gentleman was getting beat, something was just telling me this isn’t right, this isn’t what it’s all about. When he got hit in the head with the brick, something told me to go down there. I just reacted.” They drove close to the site of the attack. Mr. Denny had managed to get back into the cab of his truck. The truck was slowly moving. Inside the cab, a woman named Lei Yuille was trying to comfort Mr. Denny. Mr. Murphy ran and jumped on the running board of the passenger side to try to help Mr. Denny. Another man, Bobby Green, jumped on the running board on the driver’s side. Mr. Murphy and Mr. Green did not know each other, and each feared that the other man was a rioter. Mr. Murphy said to Mr. Green, “Who are you? What are you going to do?” Mr. Green replied, “What are you going to do?” Mr. Murphy said 20 years after the riot, “I didn’t know he was thinking the same thing I was thinking. I figured I had to take him on; he figured he had to take me on. We were both over 6 feet tall. I told him I was going to drive the truck and he said, ‘I’m a truck driver.’ That was the end of that.” Mr. Green drove the truck to a hospital that was three miles away. Ms. Yuille attended to Mr. Denny. Ms. Barnett drove a car in front to lead the way. Mr. Murphy stood on the running board the whole way, and he had to pretend to be a rioter to keep the real rioters away from the truck. Mr. Murphy said, “There were cars approaching us and swinging bats and sticks and guns and stuff. I had to pretend that I was part of the riot so that the people in the cars wouldn’t try to take us on or try to take advantage of the truck again. I started beating on the truck like it was mine. The trick really worked.” Because the truck windows were cracked so badly, Mr. Green couldn’t see, and so Mr. Murphy helped guide him verbally. Mr. Murphy said, “Each one of us could not carry on the task without the other. Bobby couldn’t drive the truck without me on the outside. Mr. Denny was attended to from the inside [by Ms. Yuille], and we couldn’t drive the truck without Terry in the front of us. We all came together as a team. It was like it was meant to be.” Mr. Denny survived, but he suffered permanent damage to his speaking and walking ability. Mr. Murphy said, “I was just helping a person who was in need. I didn’t look at his race at all. Never thought about it once.” Can similar riots occur again? Mr. Murphy said, “In every major city in America and in cities all over the world, the same thing could happen, until we decide as a people that we [will] work together and stop looking at things as race but realize we’re all one.”

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One Response to Terri Barnett, Bobby Green, Titus Murphy, and Lei Yuille: African-American Heroes of the 1992 Los Angeles Race Riots

  1. Stevo says:

    Many thanks and prayers for those that did the right thing and saved Reginald Denny!

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