When a police officer is killed in the line of duty, his fellow officers never forget. Even decades later, and among men and women who never served with the slain individual, a member of the police force is discussed with the honor he richly deserves. I imagine with the death of convicted murderer Gregory Powell this week from terminal cancer, the members of the Los Angeles Police Department took a minute to remember their fallen friend.
Powell and his cohort, Jimmy Lee Smith, abducted two police officers at gunpoint back in March 1963. The criminal duo took the officers to an isolated onion field and shot them. Officer Ian Campbell died. His partner, Karl Hettinger, did not get hit and found his way to help once their assailants left. An intersection in Hollywood is now named for Campbell in honor of the sacrifice he made in defending the safety of others.
Powell and Smith became known as the Onion Field cop killers. They were sentenced to death, but this was changed to life in prison once the death penalty was suspended in California in the 1970s. Despite his pleas to be released from prison as his final days drew near, Powell’s life ended in the same place where he had spent almost half a century.
While in the back of our minds we may acknowledge the daily threats faced by police officers, it is stories like this that really drive the notion of potential violence home. These officers were making a traffic stop and one of them ended up dead. Not many of us can say our chosen profession presents the same risks. That’s a good thing to remember the next time we see a cop pulling someone over for speeding on our favorite path to work and just groan. An officer never knows what is waiting inside that car.
What officer involved shooting stays firmly in your mind from history?
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