Officials with National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) are expressing outrage over the death of a suspect in a cannabis-related crime during a police chase. Gregory Longenecker, 51, was killed after being hunted by Pennsylvania State Police in a commandeered bulldozer.
What makes it even more outrageous is that Longenecker was wanted in connection with the discovery of a very small amount of cannabis, only ten plants.
“We simply cannot understand how a man is dead over an investigation involving 10 cannabis plants,” said NORML Pittsburgh chapter executive director Patrick Nightingale, as reported by the Associated Press.
Nightingale, who is also a defense lawyer and former county prosecutor, added, “The whole investigation was ridiculous. I’ve seen law enforcement take down major heroin traffickers that haven’t engaged in this level of aggression.”
The fatal debacle began after a Pennsylvania Game Commission worker reported a suspicious car parked on state land to local police, who called in the state police. One suspect was arrested, but the other fled into the woods.
When police first appropriated the use of the bulldozer, they were merely clearing a path to allow for law enforcement to gain some visibility in the thick underbrush. A state police helicopter had Longenecker in their sites, but after a time they lost them.
Then one police officer and one game commission official kept up their pursuit, even though they no longer could see if their suspect was directly in their path.
“That is so thick up there, there is no way that you could see someone lying in there,” Trooper David Beohm, a state police spokesman, told reporters.
“What was so hard about asking the guy you had in custody what his buddy’s name is?” asked Nightingale. “What was so hard about running the plates of the vehicle that drew their attention to the area? What was so hard about ripping up the [cannabis] plants?”
An internal investigation by the state police is in process. The unidentified police trooper who rode the bulldozer has been placed on administrative duty pending its outcome, according to state police spokesman Cpl. Adam Reed.
Photo via Flickr user Dave L