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Ex-reserve officer charged in motorcycle crash that killed Ben Davis HS grad

Posted at 4:56 PM, Nov 16, 2016

A Nashville, Indiana, police officer will face criminal charges stemming from a chase that ended in the death of a Ben Davis High School graduate.

Reserve officer Leonard Burch resigned from the Nashville Police Department on September 1, just days after he was involved in a fatal police chase with 18-year-old Xavier Maurice Scrogham.

Scrogham, a Ben Davis High School graduate and former state football champion, was riding a motorcycle in Bartholomew County when Burch reportedly noticed him speeding.

Burch, who was off-duty at the time, called 911 saying a motorcycle just passed him at "120 miles an hour" and initiated a pursuit of Scrogham.

Nashville police reserve officers do not have police powers while off-duty – something Burch later told investigators he was unaware of, but which investigators said is stated in the department's training manual.

According to a probable cause affidavit, the pursuit took Burch and Scrogham through "possibly the busiest combined commercial, school and residential district in the city" at speeds at times exceeding 100 miles an hour. Scrogham and Burch were both recorded on dash cam blowing through stop signs and red lights without slowing or stopping.

At some point during the pursuit, Burch lost sight of Scrogham. Responding officers then found a single tire track leading into a bean field.

Scrogham's body was found in the field more than 100 feet away from his crashed motorcycle. Investigators said it appeared he had struck a telephone guide wire and been thrown off his motorcycle. Scrogham was pronounced dead at the scene.

Following Burch's resignation, police released dash cam video of the chase, along with news that they had launched a criminal investigation into the case.


On Thursday, the Bartholomew County Prosecutor's Office filed formal charges of reckless driving and false informing, both misdemeanors, against Burch.

Investigators say in the affidavit that evidence from the scene and testimony from a witness made it clear that Scrogham could not have been traveling at the speeds Burch first reported – evidence showed Scrogham was traveling no more than 70 miles an hour in a 55-mile-an-hour zone.

Scrogham's friends also told police he had allegedly been fascinated by the idea of outrunning a police officer on his motorcycle, and had been repeatedly saying "drop a gear and watch them disappear" – a phrase he had reportedly heard about a motorcyclist's ability to outrun police.

Analysis of the Burch's dashcam video showed that during the pursuit he failed to slow or stop at numerous red lights and stop signs – a violation of Indiana Code – and that he was driving at speeds of 100-120 miles an hour through Columbus with only one hand on the wheel as he used his cellphone to communicate with 911 dispatchers.

Investigators ultimately found that Scrogham did not exceed 70 miles an hour until after Burch had initiated the pursuit.

A Bartholomew County judge scheduled an initial hearing on Tuesday for December 1 at 10:30 a.m. in Bartholomew Superior Court 2.

MORE | Dash cam video from night of deadly motorcycle crash in Bartholomew County released | Nashville officer resigns following deadly police chase in Bartholomew County