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Doug  Wyllie

Doug Wyllie

Doug Wyllie has authored more than 1,000 articles and tactical tips aimed at ensuring that police officers are safer and more successful on the streets. Doug is a Western Publishing Association “Maggie Award” winner for Best Regularly Featured Digital Edition Column. He is a member of International Law Enforcement Educators and Trainers Association (ILEETA), an Associate Member of the California Peace Officers’ Association (CPOA), and a member of the Public Safety Writers Association (PSWA).
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Onion Field Cop Killer: No 'Compassionate' Release

The man convicted of killing LAPD Officer Ian Campbell in a California onion field is eligible to be released from prison for medical reasons. The Los Angeles police union has strongly opposed this.

October 08, 2011  |  by Los Angeles Police Protective League

Editor's Note: This blog post first appeared on the Los Angeles Police Protective League's website. 

Convicted of the murder of on-duty Los Angeles police officer Ian Campbell, whom he kidnapped and later executed, "Onion Field" killer Gregory Powell was sentenced to death. That sentence was then reduced to life in prison with possibility of parole when the courts struck down California's death penalty in 1972.

For those who may have forgotten the horrific crime, on March 9, 1963, Ian and his partner, Karl Hettinger, were assigned to Hollywood Division. Ian and Karl stopped a car with two suspicious people, Gregory Powell and Jimmy Smith. Ian and Karl did not know that Powell and Smith were both armed and looking for a liquor store to rob. As Ian approached the car, Powell took Ian as a hostage. Karl surrendered his gun under the threat that if he did not, Ian would be killed.

Both officers were kidnapped. Ian was forced to drive at gunpoint with Karl in the back seat. They were taken to a deserted onion field near Bakersfield where Powell executed Ian. As Ian lay on the ground, Smith shot him four times. Karl managed to escape. Both Powell and Smith were arrested within 24 hours of the murder. Joseph Wambaugh wrote the book, "The Onion Field" about Ian's murder.

Now, however, Powell wants another chance at getting out of prison. He has cancer, and believes that fact should justify a "compassionate release" from prison. Never mind that he showed Ian Campbell absolutely no mercy and tried to murder Campbell's partner Karl Hettinger that same night in that same onion field.

Apparently, Powell and his attorney fail to comprehend the meaning of the phrase "life in prison." Put simply, it means that unless granted parole, you will stay in prison for the remainder of your natural life, and die in that prison, whether by cancer, a heart attack, or old age. Powell is not a suitable candidate for parole, as demonstrated by the 11 separate denials for parole since 1972.

Given that, Powell's life sentence is not a sentence of "imprisonment until a terminal illness develops." It should be expected that the inmate will stay and die in prison. It defeats the purpose of a life sentence if, at the end of life, cold-blooded murderers like Powell are let out so their last days can be spent in comfort. Part of the deserved punishment for his brutal crime is that he spend his last waking moments deprived of freedom.


'Onion Field' Cop Killer Denied Parole

The Storyteller: Joseph Wambaugh

Comments (11)

Displaying 1 - 11 of 11

AusFost1 @ 10/10/2011 5:01 PM

Life means life. The last moments of his life, even spent in a prison hospital, will be infinitely better than poor Ian Campbell's. Hope he is terrified of dying.

T. Dowling @ 10/11/2011 12:28 AM

Statements or letters can be sent to the Parole Board expressing why Powell should not be released.

The email address to send in statements from the public or any other law enforcement personnel is [email protected]

The emails that are sent to this email address will be routed to the Bureau of Parole Hearings for review.

State Department of Corrections spokeswoman Terry Thornton said Wednesday the board will consider the case of Gregory Powell at its Oct. 18 meeting.

Morning Eagle @ 10/11/2011 1:01 AM

This cold-blooded murderer of a police officer has already lived 48 years longer under a supposed death sentence that was changed to life than he allowed Officer Campbell when he executed him. He deserves no mercy for any reason and it is incomprehensible that there is even any possibility of parole after committing such a crime. So what if he has cancer? Lots of people have cancer but they don't get free medical care courtesy of the CA taxpayers. Let the slug die in place and the sooner the better, he has already lived far longer than he deserved to. I was a shiny new police officer when this took place and I clearly remember learning of it though I was never personally involved.

Janet @ 10/11/2011 12:33 PM

The crime that those two committed is unforgiveable. He should stay in prison until his last days. Because he has cancer is no reason to release him. He will die one day so let it be in prison.

MartyB @ 10/11/2011 3:34 PM

If Powell and his attorney had their way he wouldhave been out of prison long ago because prison an un-fair punishment and too hard on Powell. I wonder how may times the tax payers have already "saved" Powell from cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, or some other prison aquired bug like Hep-C.

It's too bad Powell missed getting the "pellet" in the gas chamber, a hot shot in the arm or a old fashioned dose of "high velocity" lead poisoning.

Good Riddance To Bad Trash!

snide @ 10/13/2011 5:57 AM

i cant believe that anyone wood want to even help that piece of garbage!

let him die there in jail

he has had enough freedom, he is still sucking air isnt he?

thats should be enough freedom for that monster

Slippers @ 10/18/2011 3:26 PM

When a prisoner sentanced to 'Death' and the law later changes to life in prison because the law changed ending the Death Penalty there should be no parole options ever. Why do we go through this every few years with these killers.

It would be interesting to determine if the inmate's health care costs would be significantly less in the civilian world, as compared to that which is already recieved from the Department of Corrections (DOC). It is my opinion that if convicted killer is 'compassionately released' he/she could not afford health care and would still remain dependent upon the tax payers to pay the bills. So, we may in fact reduce prison population slightly yet we are not reducing the health care costs obsorbed by the citizens. I do not believe that a significant reduction in costs would be seen.

Rick @ 10/18/2011 10:38 PM

I would like to see any "compassion" showed by Powell when he shot the policeman 4 times and ended his life in an onion field alone, taking him away from his loved ones. What they should have done is laid the guy down on the floor blindfolded and shot him 4 times and left him to die in a prison cell, too. Good riddance. This is the only time I am glad cancer has affected somebody.

astley @ 10/18/2011 10:46 PM

I say the sick bastard deserves nothing but to rot in hell. but thats not for me to judge, so i say no "compassion" for this demonic fagbag

Tim @ 10/19/2011 7:36 AM

CNN just reported that Powell was denied parole and will die in the joint:

icsms @ 5/4/2012 11:22 AM


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