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Police sued over bulldozer death of pot suspect

Police are sued for running over and killing a Grateful Dead fan, 51, with a BULLDOZER after he was caught growing pot on public land

  • Family of Greg Longenecker filed federal lawsuit accusing Pennsylvania State Police of recklessness 
  • Longenecker, 51, was killed in July 2018 after finding himself caught under treads of a bulldozer operated by troopers during police chase in a field
  • Cops went in pursuit after Longenecker and another man were caught tending to 10 marijuana plants on state game lands 
  • Officials claimed Longenecker was high on meth, crawled under the back of bulldozer and was crushed to death when it made a left turn
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A federal lawsuit filed Monday accuses Pennsylvania State Police of gross recklessness for using a bulldozer to chase and inadvertently run over and kill Greg Longenecker (pictured) 

The family of a Grateful Dead fan who was fatally run over with a bulldozer by Pennsylvania State Police last summer has filed a federal lawsuit accusing troopers of acting recklessly and turning the victim into ‘human roadkill’. 

Greg Longenecker’s relatives named as plaintiffs in the complaint filed on Monday said state police had no business chasing him with a dangerous piece of machinery – especially over a few marijuana plants the 51-year-old was cultivating on public land for personal use. 

The man’s death last July, in a rural area about 75 miles outside of Philadelphia, also provoked outrage from a marijuana advocacy group.

‘They killed a beautiful human being, a caring, loving man,’ Longenecker’s uncle, Mike Carpenter, said. ‘He’ll never be able to share his life with us, or us with him, again. For no reason. He wasn’t hurting anyone.’

A prosecutor who investigated Longenecker’s death concluded that troopers acted reasonably.

The chase developed as Longenecker – a short-order cook and avid vegetable gardener – and his friend, David Light, tended 10 marijuana plants in a small clearing on state game lands near Reading, Pennsylvania. 

Longenecker was fleeing police after getting caught growing pot plants on a public land last July when he somehow found himself beneath the machine’s treads (pictured)

Officials claimed Longenecker was high on meth, crawled under the back of the bulldozer (pictured) and was crushed to death when it made a left turn

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A Pennsylvania Game Commission worker, operating a bulldozer in the area, spotted their car parked in a field where vehicles were not allowed and called police.

Light surrendered, but Longenecker fled, disappearing into the thick vegetation.

State police began a lengthy search. A state police helicopter spotted Longenecker in the underbrush, and the game commission worker, with a trooper aboard, used the bulldozer to blaze a trail in pursuit. 

The bulldozer was traveling no more than 1 or 2mph, according to an official account.

Longnecker’s friend David Light (pictured), 55, who was with him tending to the pot plants that day, surrendered to the state troopers 

How Longenecker got caught in the machine’s treads is hotly disputed. 

Authorities concluded he was high on methamphetamine, crawled under the back of the bulldozer in an attempt to elude capture, and was crushed to death when it made a left turn.

Longenecker’s friends and family call that explanation ludicrous.

‘That morning, Gregory was not high or under the influence. He was normal,’ Light wrote in an affidavit obtained by the Associated Press. 

‘There is no way Gregory crawled underneath the back of the bulldozer. It is unthinkable and ridiculous that anyone would say he crawled underneath.’

Light, 55, pleaded guilty to misdemeanor drug charges and was accepted into a program for first-time offenders. 

Longenecker’s family questioned why state police did not get a warrant for his arrest and detained him at a later time, given they knew his identity and that his crime was relatively minor.

Berks County District Attorney John Adams – the prosecutor who determined that state police acted appropriately – insisted that Longenecker put himself in harm’s way by fleeing from the authorities.

‘His behavior was despicable,’ Adams said. ‘They yelled to him, they asked him to surrender. He did not surrender.’

Mike Carpenter, uncle of Greg Longenecker, walks the field where the Grateful Dead fan was killed by the bulldozer 

Carpenter, who is named a plaintiff in the lawsuit, said his nephew was a ‘beautiful human being’ who was killed for no reason  

Longenecker likely would have faced probation over his marijuana plants, Adams said.

He said Longenecker’s family would have been just as angry had troopers abandoned the search, and it turned out that Longenecker was injured and in need of medical attention.

‘He’s in a pile of brush that is completely uninhabitable. Something could have happened to him. And if the state police would have picked up and left, then they would be pissed off: “Why didn’t the state police try to find him?” So they were damned if they did or damned if they didn’t,’ he said.

But at least one state police official has evidently acknowledged the situation could have been handled differently.

A Jerry Garcia blanket covers Greg Longenecker’s chair at a home he shared, in Reading, Pennsylvania

A decal calling for justice for Greg Longenecker is seen on the back window of his uncle Mike Carpenter’s car

Carpenter, Longenecker’s uncle, said he met with Sgt. William Slaton from state police headquarters about a month after Longenecker’s death. 

He said Slaton apologized, telling him that ‘for 10 plants, he would’ve sent everybody home because they already knew who he was, where he lived, where he worked. He would’ve sent everybody home and maybe picked him up a couple days later.’

A state police spokesman would not confirm or deny Carpenter’s account.

The civil rights lawsuit seeks unspecified damages against state police, the game commission and the individuals involved in the pursuit. 

‘State police ran Gregory Longenecker over with a government-operated bulldozer and essentially turned him into human roadkill,’ said the family’s lawyer, Jordan Strokovsky. ‘There will be a thorough investigation and a lot of questions will be answered, and ultimately, those who need to be held accountable will be held accountable.’

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