Reserve officer investigated after pursuit that ended with teen’s death

BARTHOLOMEW COUNTY, Ind - Family members and investigators want to know if a central Indiana teenager died after trying to escape someone who shouldn’t have been chasing him in the first place.

Xavier Scrogham, 18, was pronounced dead just before midnight August 29, after running a motorcycle off a road into a Bartholomew County bean field. Scrogham suffered severe trauma when he hit a telephone pole support cable after missing a 90-degree turn on Sunland Road, near 25th Street, according to the Bartholomew County Sheriffs Department.

The crash happened several minutes after an off-duty reserve officer 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.  Audio from the 911 call indicates the high-speed chase lasted several minutes from the central part of Columbus until the officer lost sight of the motorcycle east of the city along 25th Street.

Several minutes later, a Bartholomew County Sheriffs 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 the Nashville reserve officer during the pursuit.  It was later learned that Scrogham 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.  And this particular officer did not have permission to have the marked Nashville Police car in Columbus in the first place.  Myers said he did not know why the officer was in Columbus with the police car, and he has learned the reserve officer has resigned from the Nashville Police department.  Nashville Police did not return phone messages left Monday to answer questions about the situation.

Myers also said there were inconsistencies between what the reserve officer told investigators and what he said during his 911 call during the pursuit.  The reserve officer mentioned to 911 dispatchers that he had activated his dash cam video when he started chasing the motorcycle.  Myers said investigators have not had the chance to view the video, but it could be a key piece of evidence in the investigation.

“I’m really counting on Matt Myers and the Bartholomew County Sheriffs Department to answer those questions,” said Scrogham’s Aunt, Anne Johnson-Bey.  “And this family and myself won’t get rest until that’s done.”

Johnson-Bey said she and other family members are struggling with the unknown as they cope with Scrogham’s sudden death.  She said her nephew, who had been on on the football team and cheerleading squad at Columbus East High School, was loved by all who knew him.

She also said Scrogham had been mechanically inclined since he was 10 or 12 years old.  He had just purchased the motorcycle earlier that day, and had not yet put a license plate on it.

“He was probably taking it out for a test ride,” Johnson-Bey said.  “He knew it didn’t have a plate on, he knows we’re law abiding citizens.  It was a kid that got scared when the lights came on.  He shouldn’t have ran, but he shouldn’t have had to pay for it with his life.”

While criminal charges against the reserve officer are possible, Myers said nobody had been arrested or charged as of Monday evening.  The investigation into the incident is ongoing.