The family of Greg Longenecker, the Pennsylvania man killed by the state police’s bulldozer when he was discovered visiting his 10 cannabis plants last July, filed a civil rights lawsuit against the law enforcement agents, state police, and the game commission on Monday.
“They killed a beautiful human being, a caring, loving man,” said plaintiff Mike Carpenter, who is Longenecker’s uncle.
“His behavior was despicable,” said Berks County District Attorney Adams, in contrast. “They yelled to him, they asked him to surrender. He did not surrender.”
It is unclear how Longenecker ended up caught in the treads of the police’s bulldozer, which was apparently moving at a speed of one to two miles per hour. The man who the Associated Press describes as “a short-order cook and avid vegetable gardener with a passion for the [Grateful] Dead” ran from the police when they found him and a friend visiting the marijuana plants they grew for personal consumption on state game lands outside of Reading, roughly 75 miles from Philadelphia. Officers employed a bulldozer to clear a path into the underbrush to which they had seen Longenecker flee.
Longenecker was with his friend David B. Light when the two were surprised by the police. Light surrendered to the officers, and rejects the official story of Longenecker’s death; that the 51 year old man, high on methamphetamines, crawled underneath the bulldozer to escape capture and got caught when the machine made a turn.
“That morning, Gregory was not high or under the influence,” Light wrote in an affidavit. “There is no way Gregory crawled underneath the back of the bulldozer. It is unthinkable and ridiculous that anyone would say he crawled underneath.”
The pair were discovered when their illegally parked vehicles were seen by a Pennsylvania Game Commission employee, who alerted the police. Adams insinuated that the use of the bulldozer to find Longenecker was necessary, given that the man could have been injured when he escaped into the “completely uninhabitable” undergrowth.
“They were damned if they did or damned if they didn’t,” said Adams.
But a police procedure expert interviewed by the Associated Press disagrees. “It’s outlandish,” said retired New York Police Department commander and lawyer Walter Signorelli, who has experience overseeing investigations into police pursuits. “This is the craziest thing I’ve heard in years. It seems like they were more concerned with the chase than the danger to themselves and the public and the guy they’re chasing.”
Though a pair of Pennsylvania senators introduced a recreational cannabis bill on Monday, it continues to be illegal in the state to grow marijuana for personal consumption — even by authorized participants in its medical marijuana program. Cannabis flower became available for purchase by medical marijuana patients in dispensary in August of last year.
Regardless of the details surrounding the killing of Longenecker, his family is not ready to accept that his death was necessary. “He’ll never be able to share his life with us, or us with him, again,” said Carpenter. “For no reason. He wasn’t hurting anyone.”