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‘Onion Field’ cop killer dead at 79

Gregory U. Powell, who kidnapped two Los Angeles police officers in 1963 and killed one of them, has died, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation said. He was 79.

He died on Sunday after a battle with prostate cancer at the California Medical Facility in Vacaville. Powell’s case was made famous in Joseph Wambaugh’s book “The Onion Field.”

It was March 9, 1963, when LAPD Officer Ian Campbell and his partner, Karl Hettinger, were driven to a Kern County onion field at gunpoint. Hettinger managed to escape but Campbell was shot and killed.

Powell was arrested the night of the murder. His partner, Jimmy Lee Smith, was arrested the following day.

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Both were convicted of murder and sentenced to death. Their death sentences were commuted to life imprisonment after California’s death penalty was ruled unconstitutional in 1972.


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