Police reports paint a picture of a young Columbus man whose final act in life would be to flee police in a high-speed chase, his mother said.
But in her eyes and those of others who knew him best, Xavier Scrogham was a different person entirely.
“Xavier loved everybody,” said his mother, Carleen Scrogham.
“He would go down the road and see an elderly person mowing grass, and he would stop and mow it for them,” she said. “He just had a really good heart.”
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Since seventh grade, he had lived at his grandparents’ rural home — between Hope and Petersville — which had wide expanses of country land to ride the four-wheelers and dirt bikes that he loved. One of the last photos taken of Xavier shows him wearing a shirt covered in mud after spending the day “muddin'” on four-wheelers with a friend.
His grandmother, Nadine Johnson-Bey of Hope, described Xavier as a young man who was mannerly and respectful to everyone.
“This is very hard for me, for our entire family,” his grandmother said. “He was loved and he was a loving person.”
He would take other young people under his wing — friends who may not have been as outgoing as Xavier was, and needed the support, she said.
“He was a wonderful young man,” Johnson-Bey said.
Scrogham spent his eighth and final semester of high school at Ben Davis in Indianapolis, where a friend — Josiah Edwards — also attended.
“He just wanted a change,” Carleen Scrogham said of her son’s decision to move to Indianapolis.
Describing him as a type of kid that everybody loved, Carleen Scrogham said her son was raised by his entire extended family — including her, his father, and his grandparents, aunts and uncles.
After moving back to the Columbus area to again live with his grandparents, Xavier Scrogham started working weekends at Lowe’s Distribution Center in North Vernon, where his father, Calvyn Johnson-Bey, is employed.
Her son was considering different career opportunities, and was also thinking about becoming a chef, Carleen Scrogham said.
Xavier Scrogham’s 16-year-old sister, Hannah, said he had been involved in culinary arts throughout his high school years at Columbus East, and when he was 15 had cooked an entire Thanksgiving dinner by himself.
He also got experience in the food business this past summer helping his uncle, who owns a catering business.
But if a career path in the hospitality business didn’t work out, he was also considering engineering, his sister said.
Part of the team
Scrogham also had an athletic side.
He was a sophomore on the 2013 Columbus East state championship football team who also competed in track and field.
Indoors, Scrogham was part of a Loyalty Athletix competitive cheer team in Columbus, serving on the 28-member roster, said Brittany Carpenter, gym owner and coach.
He joined in June 2015, trying out with the encouragement of several friends, and was instantly accepted by the group, Carpenter said.
“We could tell instantly that he was a hard worker, and he had been raised right,” she said. “It was, ‘Yes ma’am,’ and ‘No sir.’ He was very respectful.”
Carpenter said although Scrogham was sponsored through the gym financially and had help with his participation fees, he would work at different jobs, bringing in $5 or $10 at a time to contribute toward the cost of the program.
There was one day when he brought in $150 after working all weekend helping cater a fish fry, Carpenter said.
“If anyone was struggling, or having some difficulties, he would be the first to text them, ‘Are you OK? Do you need a friend?” she said. “He was such a good kid, a really good-hearted kid.”
The gym, located near East High School, has Scrogham’s picture framed as a memorial. The team has carried on with a stomp beat mix warmup that he used to do before practice, Carpenter said.
The gym had a balloon release after Scrogham’s death — with green balloons, his favorite color — and more than 200 people attended, from cheerleading friends to others he knew from football.
Carpenter said losing Scrogham has been an extremely tough loss for his competitive cheer-team members.
The last day
Aug. 29, the last day Carleen and Hannah Scrogham saw their son and brother, was not an unusual one. He stopped by to see his mother and sister routinely for a visit and then would continue with his day.
Scrogham stopped by their house in Columbus that day and told them he was going with friends Cody Miller and Jacob Mee to get a motorcycle he had found online in Peru, north of Kokomo.
The 1987 Honda was a sport bike, and was white, which was important to her brother, Hannah Scrogham said.
“He had a helmet, shoes, jacket — it was all white,” she said. “He was getting a bike to match his outfit.”
Scrogham told his sister he planned to trade a four-wheeler for the Honda motorcycle.
After purchasing the bike and bringing it back in a pickup truck from Peru, the three teenagers began getting it in shape to ride.
Scrogham’s mother was already at work at Fazoli’s in Columbus and his sister, who also works at the restaurant, said she was sleeping when the three friends left with the motorcycle later in the day.
His mother said it wasn’t unusual to have her son come and go.
“I knew Cody was with him,” she said. “Xavier was 18. He was a good kid. He didn’t have to tell me anything.”
A typical teenager
Shirley Wallace, Cody Miller’s grandmother, said Scrogham was a typical teenager and wanted to do all the things they like to do — such as riding bikes, motorcycles and four-wheelers.
“He was a very special kid,” she said. “He had a heart of gold.”
Scrogham spent a lot of time at the Wallaces with Cody and his younger sister, Celsie. The day before the accident, Wallace took a picture of Scrogham playing video games with Celsie sitting on the floor at the Wallace home.
She described Scrogham as someone who was part of the Wallace family, who would help Shirley’s husband Paul with chores without being asked, and would never accept payment for the work he did.
“He just fit right in,” she said. “There’s not a day that goes by that someone doesn’t mention his name to me. He was special.”
The teen’s grandmother said Scrogham’s life was essentially about helping people.
“He didn’t want anyone to ever be hurt,” Nadine Johnson-Bey said. “In the short time he was on this planet, he touched a lot of lives.”