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Former Nashville Reserve Officer Pleads Guilty To Misdemeanor Charge In Incident That Resulted In Man's Death
Updated September 1, 2017 7:59 AM | Filed under: Crime
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(BARTHOLOMEW CO.) - A former reserve Nashville police officer has pleaded guilty in to a misdemeanor charge of false informing. He was given a 180 day suspended sentence and placed on probation for 180 days.

According to court records, 25-year-old Leonard Burch of Indianapolis entered the guilty plea in Bartholomew Superior Court 2 as part of a plea bargain agreement that called for a charge of reckless driving to be dismissed.

The case revolved around the August 29, 2016 pursuit of 18-year-old Xavier Scrogham, of Hope, which ended in Scrogham's death after he crashed his motorcycle.

According to court records, Burch admitted that he initiated the pursuit of Scrogham near U.S. 31 and Lowell Road and called 911 on a cell phone, telling dispatchers that the motorcycle had passed Burch going 120 mph, a statement he knew to be false.

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 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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