A man who landed on California’s Death Row for gunning down a Garden Grove police officer and wounding two others who were trying to arrest him on drug and assault allegations has died in prison, state officials announced Monday.
John George Brown, 71, was found unresponsive in his cell at 6:18 p.m. Sunday, and he was pronounced dead about 30 minutes later. A cause of death has not yet been determined.
Brown was initially sentenced to death in 1982 for the June 7, 1980, slaying of Officer Donald Reed, 27. Brown was later granted a new trial by the state Supreme Court due to evidentiary issues in the first trial. During the retrial, he was again convicted and returned to Death Row.
Brown had two outstanding arrest warrants in June 1980. According to court records, Brown told his ex-girlfriend he was not going back to jail and did not want to die in prison. He bought a gun and changed his name.
On June 7, 1980, two Garden Grove police officers spotted Brown’s car outside the Cripple Creek Bar and radioed for backup. Four officers, including Reed, went into the bar to arrest him. As they were leading him outside, Brown pulled out a small gun and opened fire, killing Reed and injuring two other officers, along with two bar patrons. He was captured a short time later as police carried out a dragnet in the area.
According to the state, since 1978, when California reinstated capital punishment, 80 condemned inmates have died from natural causes, 26 have committed suicide, 13 have been executed in California, one was executed in Missouri, one was executed in Virginia, 12 have died from other causes and six, including Brown, are pending a cause of death.
There are 734 offenders on California’s death row.