Former officer seeks jury trial

Charges stem from fatal high-speed motorcycle chase

A former reserve Nashville police officer charged with two misdemeanors while pursuing a motorcyclist through Bartholomew County plans to request a jury trial.

Leonard Burch, 25, of Columbus, appeared Wednesday afternoon in Bartholomew Superior Court 2 for a pre-trial hearing.

A probable-cause affidavit filed in Bartholomew County accuses the former off-duty officer of pursuing 18-year-old motorcyclist Xavier Scrogham of Hope recklessly at a high rate of speed through Columbus and part of rural Bartholomew County about 11:36 p.m. Aug. 29. Scrogham crashed and died after being chased by Burch.

Afterward, Burch was charged with false informing, a Class B misdemeanor, and reckless driving, a Class C misdemeanor, court documents state.

The affidavit 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 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.

Burch’s trial, which had been set to start Feb. 22, was postponed a month by Magistrate Joseph Meek. The magistrate reset the court schedule for 1:30 p.m. March 23.

During the hearing, Meek told Burch that he would be required to request the jury trial in writing, and set a 3 p.m. March 1 hearing date to make sure Burch had hired an attorney by that point.

Meek explained that it would be a bench trial — decided by a judge — unless Burch submitted his jury-trial request at least 10 days ahead of time.

Before Wednesday’s hearing got underway, Burch was laughing with a group that accompanied him to the courtroom. In the visitors’ seats at the back of the courtroom, one member of Burch’s group took a cellphone selfie and joked that it should be sent to an Indianapolis television station.

At the other side of the courtroom in the visitors’ seats were Carleen Scrogham, mother of Xavier Scrogham, accompanied by her daughter, Hannah Scrogham. The two sat quietly in the back row of the courtroom, sometimes staring at the floor, as the jokes were audible in the courtroom.

“It’s a joke to him,” Carleen Scrogham said after the hearing.

She said just common sense should have caused Burch to realize that he shouldn’t have been chasing the motorcycle at high rates of speed in a reckless manner that night.

“It’s my prayer that every time he (Burch) closes his eyes, my son’s face torments him,” Carleen Scrogham said.

A Bartholomew County Sheriff’s deputy found Scrogham, who had been thrown from his motorcycle, in a field off Sunland Road east of Columbus at about 11:43 p.m. Aug. 29.

Scrogham had missed a 90-degree turn and went off the road, striking a telephone pole guy wire that knocked him off the motorcycle, sheriff deputies said. The impact knocked off Scrogham’s helmet, and he died at the scene from head and neck trauma, Bartholomew County Coroner Larry Fisher determined.

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Julie McClure is assistant managing editor of The Republic. She can be reached at jmcclure@therepublic.com or (812) 379-5631.