A marijuana suspect who was crushed by a bulldozer that police were using to look for him had likely tried hiding under the machine as he sought to avoid capture, a prosecutor said Tuesday.
Gregory Longenecker, 51, was fleeing Pennsylvania State Police when the bulldozer ran over him in dense brush, said Berks County District Attorney John Adams. The coroner's office ruled Longenecker's July 9 death an accident, and Adams determined that state police acted reasonably in their search.
Tests revealed Longenecker was high on methadone, methamphetamine and marijuana.
His "judgment, perception and coordination would have been considerably impaired at the time of his death due to this intoxication," Dr. Neil Hoffman, a forensic pathologist, wrote in an autopsy report.
Officials with the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws had blasted state police for calling in a helicopter and commandeering a state Game Commission bulldozer as they tracked Longenecker, who'd fled law enforcement on state game lands about 10 miles (16 kilometers) from his hometown of Reading.
The chase developed after a game commission worker who had been clearing brush spotted a car parked in a field and called local police, who, in turn, contacted state police.
One suspect was arrested by the Bernville police chief, but Longenecker eluded capture.
A state police helicopter spotted him in the underbrush, and the game commission worker, with a trooper aboard, used the bulldozer to blaze a trail in pursuit.
Investigators concluded that Longenecker crawled under the bulldozer when it came to a brief stop. "This was undetected by the troopers," according to a statement released by the prosecutor's office.
Once the bulldozer began moving again, this time at a 45-degree angle, Longenecker was caught under the treads, authorities said. The trooper and the bulldozer's driver found Longenecker's body.
"It is unfortunate that a life was lost and our condolences go out to the Longenecker family," Adams said in a statement. "However, I support the actions of the Pennsylvania State Police. Their efforts were reasonable and conducted in a safe manner."
Police said they found 10 marijuana plants at the scene.