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Charges Filed Against Former Nashville Officer
Updated November 16, 2016 7:37 AM | Filed under: Crime
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(BARTHOLOMEW CO.) - Two misdemeanor criminal charges have been field against former Reserve Nashville Police officer Leonard J. Burch.

While off duty, Burch initiated a late-night, high-speed pursuit of the motorcyclist, 18-year-old Xavier Scrogham of Hope, whose body was found near a field off Sunland Road after the August 29 chase.

25-year-old Leonard J. Burch Burch of Columbus is accused of false informing, a Class B misdemeanor, and reckless driving, a Class C misdemeanor.

A Class B misdemeanor is punishable by 180 days in jail and a fine of up to $1,000. A Class C misdemeanor is punishable by 60 days in jail and a fine of up to $500.

The probable-cause affidavit filed in Bartholomew Superior Court 2 accuses Burch of pursuing Scrogham recklessly at a high rate of speed through Columbus and part of rural Bartholomew County. The affidavit also accuses Burch of making a false statement to a 911 dispatcher that Scrogham's motorcycle had passed Burch's police car going 120 mph before Burch began his pursuit at about 11:36 p.m. in the southbound lanes of U.S. 31 near Lowell Road.

Investigators concluded that Scrogham was going no faster than 70 mph in the 55 mph speed zone when the motorcycle first caught Burch's attention, according to court records.

A summons will be issued and mailed notifying Burch to appear in Superior Court 2, Bartholomew County Prosecutor Bill Nash says.

Deputies learned from one of Scrogham's friends, Jacob Mee, that the two had gone to Peru, Indiana, earlier in the day Aug. 29 to buy the 1987 Honda motorcycle that later would be involved in the pursuit.

Mee told investigators that the two made some repairs to the motorcycle and Scrogham decided to take it for a ride in Columbus, with Mee following him in a Volkswagen car.

Mee described the sports bike as a "crotch rocket," a slang term also used by Burch when describing the motorcycle to 911 dispatchers, the affidavit states. "Crotch rocket" commonly describes a high-speed, high-performance motorcycle characterized by an aerodynamic body shape, which requires the driver to lean forward on the bike, the affidavit states.

The two friends stopped at McDonald's in Taylorsville to eat around 10:45 p.m., and Scrogham gave Mee his cellphone and said he thought he saw a police car sitting at New Hope Christian Church, 1404 W. County Road 400N, the affidavit states.

"It was Xavier's plan to find a cop to outrun on his new motorcycle, and he wanted Jacob to hold onto his cellphone and then meet him at Huck's gas station in Hope after Xavier had outrun the cop car," the affidavit said.

Mee told officers that about a month before the incident, another motorcycle enthusiast had told Scrogham that he could outrun the police on a powerful enough motorcycle and used the phrase "drop a gear and watch them disappear," the affidavit said.

Mee told police Scrogham was obsessed with the idea of outrunning a police ca. Mee told investigators that Scrougham's last words, before he started the motorcycle, were "Drop a gear and watch them disappear."

Investigators also talked to Cody Miller, another friend who was with Scrogham and Mee until about 9:30 p.m. Aug. 29.

"He (Miller) said that Xavier's logic was that, if you are on a motorcycle, 'you can just weave in and out of places and ... they can't hit you because it can result in fatal injury, and stuff like that so, therefore, unless you stop, they can't stop you," Miller told investigators. "So his (Scrogham's) theory was just keep going," the affidavit said.

Scrogham's parents, Kalvyn Johnson-Bey and Carleen Scrogham, retained Merrillville attorney Trent McCain to represent them, and McCain filed a tort claim notice on the town of Nashville, a prerequisite for a lawsuit.

The Accident

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.

The Bartholomew County Sheriff's Department had requested dash-camera video of the pursuit while investigating the incident and released it to the media Sept. 14. The video was reviewed along with the recording of Burch's 911 call to dispatchers, the affidavit states.

In the 911 call, Burch tells dispatchers, "I'm on Central Avenue. A motorcycle just passed me at 120 miles an hour, and I'm actually in pursuit of the vehicle," the affidavit states. Burch then corrects the information about his location saying he was southbound on U.S. 31 approaching Central. During the call, Burch continues to update dispatchers saying speeds are 100 to 120 miles per hour, the affidavit states.

Investigators determined that the motorcycle and Burch's police car disregarded a red light at U.S. 31 and Beam Road and again at U.S. 31 and 17th Street, both at high rates of speed, the affidavit states. While the pursuit continued eastbound on Base Road, there were times that Burch's vehicle appeared to go into the air, losing contact with the road due to the speed and contour of the road, investigators wrote.

While state law authorizes police officers in pursuit of a violator to proceed past a red light or stop sign, it is allowed only after slowing down as necessary for safe operation, the affidavit states. State law also only allows officers to exceed maximum speed limits if the person driving does not endanger life or property.

Based on investigator calculations, Burch was driving at close to three times the posted maximum speed limit as he ran the red lights without slowing down, the affidavit states.

Scrogham's phone was returned to his family Aug. 30, and investigators turned it over to the Indiana State Police.

Among the images is a selfie of Scrogham with another young man in the background.

Superimposed in white over the picture are the words, "Drop the gear and watch them disappear" followed by "-Xavier," the affidavit states.

Scrogham's parents, Kalvyn Johnson-Bye and Carleen Scrogham have filed a tort claim notice,against the Town of Nashville for negligence, negligent entrustment, negligent hiring, intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligent infliction of emotional distress, and/or wrongful death. The tort claim notice also asks that the car Burch was driving be impounded for future forensic analysis.

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