Crime & Justice

Intersection renamed 'Ian Campbell Square' for officer killed in 1963 Onion Field case

Courtesy of the Los Angeles Police Museum

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The intersection at Carlos Avenue and Gower Street in Hollywood will get a new name today, “Ian Campbell Square.” Los Angeles city officials and police will dedicate that intersection to LAPD officer Ian Campbell.

Officer Campbell was a 31-year old officer who was killed by a pair of kidnappers in 1963 in what’s famously become known as the Onion Field case.

Campbell and his partner Karl Hettinger pulled over two suspicious-looking men at Carlos Avenue and Gower Street on a March night in 1963. The two suspects, Gregory Powell and Jimmy Lee Smith had been involved in a string of robberies. When Campbell and Hettinger approached the vehicle, one of them pulled a gun on the officers and managed to force the cops to surrender their weapons. From there, the suspects drove Campbell and Hettinger to an onion field in Bakersfield.

“In committing the kidnapping, the bad guys thought they violated the state’s Little Lindberg Law, which meant the death penalty, so they though the only way to get away with it is to killing the two officers,” said Glynn Martin, executive director of the Los Angeles Police Museum

Campbell was shot and killed. Hettinger managed to escape and found help a few miles away at farmhouse in Kern County. Jimmy Lee Smith died in prison but Gregory Powell remains in Vacaville prison sick with cancer. Last year, he was denied parole.

The story has lived on for decades. It became a best selling book and turned into a movie. Next year, will be 50 years since Campbell and Hettinger were abducted and Campbell was killed. Martin says the case lives on even within LAPD training.

“It’s still a scenario that’s used so that officers make sure themselves and their partners aren’t taking hostage in the same fashion,” Martin said.

Since the Onion Field case, all LAPD fallen officer memorials include bagpipe performances, a hobby of Officer Campbell’s.

The Los Angeles Police Museum will commemorate the 50-year anniversary of the Onion Field case next March with an exhibition showcasing the weapons used that night, the officer’s uniforms, Campbell’s bagpipes and more artifacts.

A section of the California State Route 101 in Los Angeles will also be designated the “Ian J. Campbell Memorial Freeway."