A man who was fleeing police in Pennsylvania was accidentally run over by a bulldozer while authorities were responding to a report of a suspicious car on state game lands, where 10 marijuana plants were later found, Pennsylvania State Police said.
Gregory Longenecker, 51, of Reading, was found dead under the rear of the bulldozer that a state trooper and a Pennsylvania Game Commission employee were using to search for him in "thick underbrush" Monday morning, according to a police statement.
At around 10 a.m., the game commission employee was operating the bulldozer on state game lands in Penn Township when he noticed a car parked in a field, the statement said. Local police arrived at the scene and shortly after two men "came out of very thick underbrush" and fled on foot.
One of the men was taken into custody by police in Bernville, while the other, later identified as Longenecker, eluded capture, state police said.
State police officials and a helicopter arrived on scene and searched for Longenecker, who was briefly located by the helicopter in the underbrush before disappearing again.
The game commission employee and a state trooper drove the bulldozer through the underbrush to the location where the helicopter last spotted the man. When they stopped the bulldozer, they located Longenecker under the rear of the machine.
State Police Trooper David Beohm told BuzzFeed News Saturday that at some point during the incident authorities located 10 marijuana plants in the field.
The other suspect, identified as David Brook Light, 54, of Sinking Spring, was charged with trespassing and various drug offenses related to the marijuana grow, officials said. He was later released on a $25,000 bail.
Beohm said he did not know at what point during the incident the plants were found, adding that authorities initially responded because of the report of a suspicious car found on state property.
"It kind of snowballed into the marijuana plants being there," he said.
The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws criticized the tactics used by police in the incident, claiming that Longenecker's death was the result of the criminalization of marijuana.
"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 US states," the nonprofit's executive director Erik Altieri said in a statement. "No matter your opinion on marijuana legalization, the penalty for growing cannabis should never be an extrajudicial death sentence.”
The incident is currently being investigated by the state police's internal affairs division and the trooper who was on the bulldozer has been placed on "administrative duty," Pennsylvania State Police Cpl. Adam Reed said in a statement.
Beohm, who responded to the scene a couple hours later, said he has never seen brush "that thick," adding that the "only way to get through that is to do the bulldozer."
"It was like pea soup," he said.