Public safety head calls Burlington police chief’s pressure ‘completely inappropriate’

Published: 4/18/2019 9:36:32 PM
Modified: 4/18/2019 9:36:21 PM

MONTPELIER — High-level officials in the Scott administration have strongly criticized efforts by Burlington Police Chief Brandon del Pozo and Mayor Miro Weinberger’s to pressure the state’s medical examiner involving the death of a man who had an altercation with police.

Thomas Anderson, the head of Vermont’s Department of Public Safety, called del Pozo’s actions “completely inappropriate,” while Gov. Phil Scott’s Chief of Staff Jason Gibbs said efforts by Weinberger to have the Governor’s Office intervene “did not feel right.”

In an email to other members of the administration, Anderson said: “It’s completely inappropriate for Delpozo (sic) to be attempting to influence/change the (medical examiner)’s finding, and, in turn, the investigation. If the ME’s finding need clarification, that is for the prosecutor to take up with the (medical examiner).”

Del Pozo had written Department of Health Commissioner Mark Levine, challenging Chief Medical Examiner Steven Shapiro’s ruling that the death of Douglas Kilburn, 54, was a “homicide.”

Kilburn was found dead March 14, days after an altercation with Burlington police officer Cory Campbell in the ambulance bay at the University of Vermont Medical Center. Police say Kilburn punched Campbell in the face during the March 11 interaction, which lead Campbell to punch Kilburn before subduing him.

Kilburn was treated at UVM Medical Center and released the next day, but was found dead in his home two days later.

Anderson made his comments criticizing del Pozo in an email chain with Levine; Gibbs; Jaye Johnson, Scott’s legal counsel; and Agency of Human Services Secretary Al Gobeille.

Anderson also said this was not the first time the DPS had noted del Pozo “inserting himself” in the investigation, which the Vermont State Police is conducting at the request of the Burlington Police Department. The Vermont State Police fall under the jurisdiction of DPS.

“We have had to repeatedly advise Delpozo (sic) that he has recused his Department from this investigation,” Anderson wrote. “From him now again to be inserting himself in this matter is very troubling.”

Jordan Redell, Weinberger’s chief of staff, reached out to Gibbs before the Vermont State Police announced Shapiro’s finding, saying she was hoping to discuss the matter. Gibbs also told Anderson that Redell was “energetically reaching out trying to have us intervene to pause the release” of the findings to the public and media.

Gibbs expressed concerns in the email chain with other state officials.

“The mayor’s office wants us to intervene in the matter below,” Gibbs wrote. “This does not feel right to me, on any level.”

Gibbs wrote he was inclined to tell Weinberger to work through the appropriate law enforcement and public health channels. In his response to Redell, Gibbs passed on that advice and also warned that it would not be appropriate for the mayor’s office to intervene or the governor’s office to get involved.

“I would also suggest the city be very careful not to do anything that could be misconstrued as interfering in, or trying to influence, the investigation,” Gibbs wrote to Redell. “I’m certain that’s not the intent, but the risk of misperception is something your team should consider.”

Levine agreed with Gibbs’ assessment, writing, “You are correct, it does not feel right.” Levine noted that he thought he had a productive conversation with del Pozo.

Weinberger and del Pozo said they were seeking additional information from Levine and denied wrongdoing in Wednesday interviews with VtDigger.

“I think that one echelon of government asking another echelon of government to explain its rationale about a decision it is going to make isn’t meddling, it’s democratic accountability,” del Pozo said.

Shapiro had ruled Kilburn’s manner of death a homicide. The official cause of death was “undetermined terminal mechanism due to multiple underlying conditions.”

One of these conditions cited by the medical examiner was a skull fracture suffered March 11 after being struck by another person. Other conditions include hypertension, cardiac and cerebral vascular disease, obesity and diabetes.

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