In the immediate aftermath of the tragic incident, local officials have deemed Longenecker’s death an accident, while marijuana legalization advocates have criticized an excessive use of force in the minor cultivation bust. Clearing roads for local hunters, the state employee noticed a car parked far off any road and called the suspicious activity into local police. When nearby officers arrived, they investigated further and uncovered a clandestine cannabis grow containing 10 pot plants. At that point, the cops encountered two men, Longenecker and his friend, David Light. Light, 54, turned himself over after police requests, while Longenecker reportedly took off running.
At this point, details become a little hazy, and the only explanation currently available involves taking the police officers involved at their word.
With Light in custody, local cops, state troopers, and the Game Commission employee who originally discovered the grow began searching for Longenecker. After relaying that information to a state trooper on the ground, who had since commandeered the Game Commission bulldozer to better traverse through the thick foliage, the trooper operating the industrial vehicle soon discovered that Longenecker had been crushed beneath the machine. “The helicopter lost site of the male and was giving directions to the bulldozer of his last location. The Game Commission employee and a Trooper were on the bulldozer driving through the thick underbrush. The bulldozer stopped in the underbrush. The second male was located under the rear of the bulldozer deceased.”
It is still not clear how Longenecker was run over without either the state employee or trooper first noticing he was in their path, but preliminary police reports give no further insight. With the discovery of only ten pot plants and two middle-aged growers, leading to a helicopter chase and pursuit by bulldozer, cannabis advocates around the country are understandably appalled by the unnecessary show of force. Light was arraigned in court Monday, and has since been released on $25,000 bail.
Still, no matter how much progress is made, Monday’s incident in Reading is yet another example of the unexpected consequences of marijuana prohibition. Until cannabis reform efforts reach a national level, police officers across the country will still be incentivized to pursue growers and dealers to the full extent of the law, even if that means the death of an otherwise innocent man.