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Fatal Pursuit Under Investigation, Involved Nashville Reserve Officer Resigns
Updated September 14, 2016 7:25 AM | Filed under: Crime
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leonard burch.jpg
Leonard Burch
Xavier Scrogham.jpg
Xavier Scragham

(BARTHOLOMEW CO.) - Family members and investigators want to know if a Hope teenager died after trying to escape someone who shouldn't have been chasing him in the first place.

18-year-old Xavier Scragham was pronounced dead just before midnight August 29, after running a motorcycle off a road into a Bartholomew County bean field. Scragham missed a 90-degree turn on Sunland Road east of Columbus.

The motorcycle went across a grassy area before striking a telephone guide wire, which knocked off his helmet and resulted in him being thrown from his Honda motorcycle, Bartholomew County Coroner Larry Fisher said. Scragham Scrogham died at the scene from head and neck trauma.

The crash happened several minutes after off-duty Nashville Police Reserve Officer Leonard Burch with the Nashville Police Department called 911 to report he was in pursuit of a motorcycle that had passed him at 120 miles per hour.  The pursuit was southbound on U.S. 31 near Taylorsville. Audio from the 911 call indicates the high-speed chase lasted several minutes until the officer lost sight of the motorcycle east of the city along 25th Street.

Several minutes later, a Bartholomew County Sheriff's Deputy is heard on police radio saying he had located the motorcycle and rider at the crash site. 

Bartholomew County Sheriff Matt Myers says deputies were never involved in the pursuit, but they were in the area looking for the motorcycle based on locations reported by Burch during the pursuit.  It was later learned that Scragham did not have a license plate on the motorcycle.

Myers says what started as a fatal accident investigation later became a criminal investigation after receiving a call from the Nashville Police Department.

Myers says Nashville Police officials said their department policy states that reserve officers should not perform police actions while off duty. Burch did not have permission to have the marked Nashville Police car in Columbus in the first place. 

Myers he did not know why the officer was in Columbus with the police car, and he has learned Burch has resigned from the Nashville Police department.  Nashville Police did not return phone messages left Monday to answer questions about the situation.

Myers also said there were inconsistencies between what the reserve officer told investigators and what he said during his 911 call during the pursuit.  The reserve officer mentioned to 911 dispatchers that he had activated his dash cam video when he started chasing the motorcycle.  Myers said investigators have not had the chance to view the video, but it could be a key piece of evidence in the investigation.

"I'm really counting on Matt Myers and the Bartholomew County Sheriff's Department to answer those questions," said Scrogham's Aunt, Anne Johnson-Bey.  "And this family and myself won't get rest until that's done."

Johnson-Bey said she and other family members are struggling with the unknown as they cope with Scrogham's sudden death.  She said her nephew, who had been on on the football team and cheerleading squad at Columbus East High School, was loved by all who knew him.

She also said Scrogham had been mechanically inclined since he was 10 or 12 years old.  He had just purchased the motorcycle earlier that day, and had not yet put a license plate on it.

"He was probably taking it out for a test ride," Johnson-Bey said. "He knew it didn't have a plate on, he knows we're law abiding citizens. It was a kid that got scared when the lights came on.  He shouldn't have ran, but he shouldn't have had to pay for it with his life."

While criminal charges against the reserve officer are possible, none have been filed as of Tuesday. Burch, 25, was accepted as a reserve officer in April. He is one of five Nashville reserve officers. He was placed on administrative leave following the incident and has since resigned.

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