Ten mature pot plants grew on state game lands in Berks County, in rural southeastern Pennsylvania, state police say.
A 51-year-old resident of nearby Reading, who police say was fleeing the scene after a state game worker alerted police to a suspicious vehicle parked on the land, was eventually found. But that was after he died of “traumatic injuries” after being run over Monday morning by the bulldozer being used in the search, according to the Berks County Coroner’s Office.
State police say Gregory A. Longenecker’s death was accidental, according to WGAL. His mangled body was found in the tracks of the bulldozer, which was clearing heavy brush police say he was seen running through, after the search was called off between 1:30 and 2 p.m. Monday.
But before the coroner’s initial findings were released, Trooper David C. Beohm, a public information officer for the state police, told the Reading Eagle that the department wasn’t sure that being run over by the bulldozer was what killed Longenecker. Because of Longenecker’s age, Beohm told the newspaper, he could have died of a heart attack while running through the underbrush.
The coroner’s initial findings were released Wednesday.
The bulldozer was driven by a state game worker during the search, while a trooper rode with the worker. The trooper aboard the bulldozer, who has not been identified by authorities, communicated with a state police aviation patrol helicopter above them, which relayed Longenecker’s location, WPVI reported.
Another man, 54-year-old David Brooks Light of Sinking Spring, surrendered to Bernville police, who were the first to respond to the incident, when Longenecker ran, according to state police. Light was arrested and charged with marijuana possession with intent to distribute, according to Berks County jail records.
Light was released on $25,000 bond to await trial after an initial court appearance, according to court records.
Beohm told WFMZ that the bulldozer was used in the search for Longenecker through the thick brush “to basically blaze a trail, because there is no way that you could walk through that stuff up there.” Police also say that Longenecker was seen running through that same brush.
Jeff Riedy, executive director of the Lehigh Valley chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, an advocacy group, said in a news release that the 10 plants probably had a street value of less than $5,000. The plants were found surrounded by two small wire fences alongside water bottles, pruning shears and fertilizer.
“We simply cannot understand how a man is dead over an investigation involving 10 cannabis plants,” Patrick Nightingale, executive director of NORML’s Pittsburgh chapter and a former Allegheny County prosecutor, said in the release. “The whole investigation was ridiculous. I’ve seen law enforcement take down major heroin traffickers that haven’t engaged in this level of aggression.”