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Burlington officer who hit man who died won’t be prosecuted

Associated Press
Published: 11/8/2019 9:39:33 PM
Modified: 11/8/2019 9:39:19 PM

BURLINGTON — A Burlington police officer was legally justified in his use of force when he hit a man in the head during an altercation that contributed to the man’s death, Vermont Attorney General TJ Donovan said Friday.

But Donovan said Officer Cory Campbell’s actions in his second interaction with Douglas Kilburn, including use of a profanity and antagonistic behavior, escalated the confrontation, Donovan said.

“It’s our hope and I know it’s the Kilburns’ hope that the Burlington Police Department will ... continue to commit to de-escalation training for their officers to ensure that their department is equipped with the tools that they need to effectively and safely respond to members of our community in crisis,” Donovan said.

Kilburn, 54, was in crisis that day, Donovan said. His wife was hospitalized and he was trying to see her, he said.

“This was a tragic situation that frankly could have been avoided,” Donovan said.

Police say Campbell responded March 11 to a report of a man yelling in the waiting room at the University of Vermont Medical Center, who was arguing with security and refusing to leave, Donovan said. Campbell escorted Kilburn to his wife’s room.

Staff at the medical center then asked security to remove Kilburn from his wife’s room, saying his behavior was not conducive to his wife’s health, Donovan said. Kilburn swore and screamed as he was being escorted out. A short time later, security asked Kilburn to remove his vehicle from the hospital’s ambulance area.

Kilburn argued with the security officer. Officer Campbell, who was walking out of the hospital, told Kilburn to “shut the F up and leave. Go, they don’t want you here,” Donovan said.

Kilburn asked if the officer had sworn at him and Campbell said he had. Kilburn then swore at Campbell as he was walking away.

Campbell turned around and grabbed Kilburn’s arm and tried to pull it behind his back. Kilburn punched the officer in the jaw. Campbell punched Kilburn back three times as Kilburn was brought to the ground and handcuffed, Donovan said.

Kilburn was treated at the medical center and charged with disorderly conduct and assault on the police officer. He was released the following day. Two days later, he was found dead at his home.

The chief medical examiner’s office said the cause of death was “undetermined terminal mechanism” due to underlying medical conditions, including hypertension, obesity and skull fractures from the altercation.

Kilburn’s wife and son said Friday that they didn’t agree with Donovan’s decision.

His son Tyler said Kilburn was an incredibly loving man who was an avid sportsman and a talented musician. After surviving multiple strokes, he said, his dad struggled with his mental health, in what was a daily battle that he said he was winning.

“My dad needed help, not handcuffs,” he said. He encouraged people to help those in need and understand that “everyone has their own battles, their own demons.”

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