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Uncle of man killed by bulldozer during police search wants new investigation

By Matt Petrillo

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    BERKS COUNTY, Pennsylvania (KYW) — Body camera video obtained by Eyewitness News shows the shocking moments when state officials realize a man is crushed by a bulldozer during a police search. Now the victim’s family wants a new investigation into the deadly encounter.

The story stunned the region — a bulldozer crushing a Berks County man. That was three years ago. His family is still pushing for what they call accountability.

The Berk’s County district attorney initially investigated the incident and said the man’s death was accidental back in 2018, but Gregory Longenecker’s uncle never believed the story from police and is still pushing for what he calls accountability.

This never-before publicly-released body camera video shows the shocking moments a Pennsylvania Game Commission worker is told a man was crushed by a bulldozer during a police search.

“I think we’re going to need a supervisor because it sounds like our bulldozer is the one that killed him,” the worker said.

The victim was 51-year-old Gregory Longenecker. He was suspected of growing 10 marijuana plants on state game lands in Penn Township near Reading back in July 2018. Police had initially confronted Longenecker, but he ran away into thick underbrush and the police search began.

“It was all about the chase,” Mike Carpenter, Longenecker’s uncle, said.

Longenecker’s uncle is still in disbelief over the loss of his nephew.

“He had a mere 10 plants for his personal use,” Carpenter said. “OK, so they surround the area with 14 armed officers and then they decide they got to run a bulldozer now through there again.”

A state police corporal had climbed on board the bulldozer, directing a Game Commission worker, who was driving, where to go, according to court documents.

These photos show the underbrush cleared by the bulldozer after the incident, but what happened before the bulldozer stopped isn’t clear.

Authorities have argued Longenecker was high and had crawled under the back of the bulldozer when it stopped before being crushed to death when it started moving again.

His uncle doesn’t buy it.

“They used excessive force. This was insane what they did,” Carpenter said.

Attorney Jordan Strokovsky represents Longenecker’s estate.

“They continue to state that he crawled from behind despite all the evidence to the contrary,” Strokovsky said.

“I wish I would have found him,” Edward Stefanides said.

Part of that evidence, he says, includes this deposition from Cpl. Edward Stefanides, the state police helicopter pilot who had assisted in the search.

“You said over and over and over again in this deposition that you had eyes on Mr. Longenecker until the bulldozer came to its final resting stop?” Strokovsky asks Stefanides.

“Only because my vision was blocked by the cage of the bulldozer,” Stefanides replied.

“Do you think [Longenecker] can teleport?” Strokovsky asked.

“I don’t know what he was capable of,” Stefanides said.

Berks County District Attorney John Adams ruled Longenecker’s death an accident. Adams did not want to be interviewed for this story but says he stands by his findings.

“I would like to see this case opened up,” Carpenter said.

Longenecker’s uncle says he still wants the police search reinvestigated by another authority who he hopes will hold police accountable.

“Being bulldozed the way he was, the horror that he must have felt in his mind, it’s just horrible,” Carpenter said.

The estate of Gregory Longenecker won $475,000 in a settlement earlier this year after suing the Pennsylvania State Police and the Game Commission

The victim’s uncle says he will not stop demanding answers until police are held accountable.

Pennsylvania State Police said they don’t comment on past or pending litigation.

In March, state police told Eyewitness News the parties agreed the settlement is not an admission of wrongdoing.

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