March 9 1963 LAPD officers Ian Campbell and Karl Hettinger pulled over a suspicious car containing armed robbers Greogory Ulas Powell and Jimmy Lee Smith. Following an armed stand off, officer Hettinger was forced to relinquish his weapon, which resulted in both officers being kidnapped and driven to a lonely onion field outside Bakersfield, where officer Campbell was murdered.
Crimeziners who have read Joseph Wambaugh’s classic account of this crime will remember how slowly the gears of justice ground in a case that resulted in a public realization that the Dragnet generation of omnipotent policing had ended, ushering in a bold new era of lawless brutality.
This week a new sign that reads “Ian Campbell Square” has been installed at Gower Street and Carlos Avenue, the junction where the two cops were kidnapped. At the dedication Crimezine favorite, author James Ellroy, read the Scottish Pipers Incantation quoted in Wambaugh’s book. “The wild insistent pipes and the marching feet defiantly answer that there is no more death,” Ellroy said. “Ian, rest in peace.”
The words must have echoed around the California Medical facility in Vacaville, because as soon as they had they been uttered, Gregory Powell was dead from prostate cancer. Powell 79 who escaped the death penalty after killing Campbell was denied parole 11 times, most recently in 2010. Powell associate Smith was paroled but continued to have run-ins with the law. He died in 2007 while imprisoned for a parole violation.
Officer Campbell’s daughter, Valerie Campbell-Moniz, from El Dorado County witnessed the unveiling. Only 3 years old when she lost her father, she has spent her life following the fates of the killers.
LAPD’s bagpipe ensemble, played at the dedication. Campbell, who died at 31, had played the pipes since childhood. Bagpipes were played at his funeral, a tradition the LAPD has continued for every fallen officer.
The tale of Campbell and Hettinger is taught to every LAPD recruit. New strategies and procedures were implemented, as a result of this case including how officers approach vehicles, position themselves, communicate and keep control of their guns. It’s not uncommon for a veteran officer to drive a rookie to the intersection where Campbell and Hettinger were kidnapped.