Today, Berks County District Attorney John Adams announced findings of an investigation into Gregory Longenecker’s death, which occurred as a result of being run over by a bulldozer, and the circumstances leading up to it.
The bulldozer was carrying a Pennsylvania state trooper in pursuit of Mr. Longenecker, who was suspected to have been cultivating ten marijuana plants in Penn Township, PA. A police helicopter was also used in the search.
The DA said, “On August 24, 2018, The Berks County Deputy Coroner issued the final death certificate, ruling the death an accidental death. I recognize the sanctity of life above all values. It is very unfortunate that a life was lost and our condolences go out to the Longenecker family. However, I support the actions of the Pennsylvania state police. Their efforts were reasonable and conducted in a safe manner in this situation.”
NORML questioned law enforcements’ decision to pursue the suspect in such an extreme manner, especially over such a minor offense. You can read NORML’s original statement here.
In response to today’s announcement, NORML leaders in Pennsylvania said:
Patrick Nightingale, Executive Director of Pittsburgh NORML said, “We are very disappointed in the findings by the District Attorney’s Office in this matter. Under no circumstances whatsoever can the actions of law enforcement be justified. This man and his companion were allegedly growing a handful of plants that posed absolutely no risk to anyone. There were no “exigent circumstances” requiring aggressive law enforcement tactics to protect the public from dangerous fugitives. These heavy-handed tactics resulted in the death of a man, who likely would have received probation upon conviction. This sad tragedy demonstrates the need for legalization because wherever cannabis is criminally prohibited some members of law enforcement will find an excuse to run a man over with construction equipment.”
Lehigh Valley NORML Executive Director Jeff Reidy said, “Today’s disappointing ruling exemplifies once again that some within the criminal justice system still view marijuana as the enemy, and that the power of the badge can be blinding to others. A man is dead because law enforcement made some unnecessary choices in the heat of the moment, when a frightened man fled. There were other means available to track down this man. They had his friend in custody. And was he really a danger to anybody for growing ten marijuana plants? Until we reform our outdated laws, there will be more Greg Longeneckers being chased by law enforcement, over a handful of harmless plants growing in a field or forest. We can end such senseless acts by legalizing cannabis, and allowing homegrows across our state. No one should die for growing a plant that can do so much good!”