In states where cannabis is still not fully legal, getting caught with it can result in criminal charges, fines, and jail time, but for one Pennsylvania man, death was the outcome.
51-year-old Lehigh Valley resident Gregory A. Longenecker was killed by a bulldozer last week while fleeing from State Police who were responding to a call about a suspicious car.
A Game Commission employee was using the bulldozer to improve access to fields on game lands at around 10 a.m. when he noticed a vehicle that was parked a ways away from the road in the brush. He also spotted some marijuana plants and decided to contact the authorities.
When Bernville Borough officers arrived, they discovered a small plot where ten cannabis plants were growing. Shortly thereafter, two men emerged from the thick underbrush and fled on foot.
State police officials soon arrived along with a helicopter to aid in the search.
One of the men, 54-year-old David Brook Light was quickly apprehended and taken into custody, but Longenecker managed to evade capture. At one point, the helicopter pilot located him but lost sight of him again when he disappeared back into the brush.
The bulldozer operator and a state trooper drove through the underbrush to where Longenecker the was last seen, but when they stopped the machine, they discovered the man underneath the rear of it.
“The reason, it’s unclear if Longenecker was struck and killed by the bulldozer,” state police spokesperson David Boehm told the Reading Eagle. “Because of his age, could have had a heart attack while fleeing through the dense thicket.”
But an autopsy of Longenecker’s body found that the cause of death to be a result of traumatic injuries. A toxicology report is currently pending, but it is apparent that he died from being run over by the bulldozer.
“Not only was the use of resources in this matter excessive and the tactics highly questionable, but more importantly, a man lost his life over the act of growing a plant that is now legally regulated in a majority of U.S. states,” said NORML Executive Director Erik Altieri in a statement. “No matter your opinion on marijuana legalization, the penalty for growing cannabis should never be an extrajudicial death sentence.”
“This awful event could have and should have been prevented,” he said.
According to a statement from Corporal Adam Reed, the trooper who was riding on the bulldozer has been placed on administrative duties while the state police’s internal affairs division reviews the incident.
Light was arraigned on charges of manufacturing marijuana and released on $25,000 bail while awaiting a court hearing.