Former reserve officer requests jury trial

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

Leonard Burch, 25, of Columbus, appeared Jan. 25 in Bartholomew Superior Court 2 for a pretrial 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 near midnight Aug. 29. Scrogham crashed and died.

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

The affidavit accuses Burch of making a false statement to a 911 dispatcher that the motorcycle had passed his police car going 120 mph before he began his pursuit on U.S. 31. Investigators concluded that Scrogham was going no faster than 70 mph in the 55 mph speed zone.

Before the hearing got underway, Burch was laughing with a group that accompanied him to the courtroom. In the visitors’ seats at the back, 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, and her daughter, Hannah Scrogham. The two sat quietly in the back row, 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 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 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’s deputies said. The impact knocked off his helmet and he died at the scene from head and neck trauma.