Gregory Powell from the LAPD exhibit.
Jimmy Smith (left) along with Gregory Powell took LAPD officers Ian Campbell (middle) and Karl Hettinger (right) hostage in 1963. Campbell was shot and killed during the incident. Hettinger resigned three years later.
FEATURED IN TACTICS AND WEAPONS
Editor’s note—There are some incidents, regardless of age, that are so critical to officer safety they should never be forgotten. Lessons from the Decades will periodically feature these tragic events that should be ingrained in the mind of every officer. Study and share these stories—they were paid for in blood by officers just like you.
On March 9, 1963, at about 2200 hrs, Los Angeles Police Department officers Ian Campbell and Karl Hettinger were conducting plainclothes patrol when they initiated a traffic stop on a maroon Ford coupe for an inoperative license plate light. The occupants, Gregory Powell and Jimmy Smith, were armed and looking for an easy target to rob. As Powell exited the Ford at Campbell’s request, Powell drew a gun, surprising Campbell and using him as a shield so that Hettinger could not shoot without hitting Campbell. At Campbell’s repeated request, Hettinger handed his revolver to Smith. With both officers disarmed, they were ordered to squeeze into the two-door Ford coupe with Smith and Powell and were driven to an onion field near Bakersfield, Calif. Ordered out of the coupe, Campbell was shot and killed. Hettinger successfully escaped into the darkness, eventually finding a farmhouse, where the residents called for help at about 0100 hrs.