The Burlington police officers union says body camera footage of a fight between an officer and a man who later died shows the officer did nothing wrong. The union released the footage to the media Wednesday.
54-year-old Douglas Kilburn died in March, a few days after getting into an altercation with Burlington Police officer Cory Campbell. The chief medical examiner ruled Kilburn's death a homicide, but did not find a specific cause of death.
The body camera footage of the incident had been withheld until this week when a Chittenden County judge ordered its release. The police union sued for the footage, so Campbell could watch it before being interviewed by Vermont State Police, who were investigating the case. Campbell, however, was never interviewed.
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During a press conference on Wednesday, the police union released the body camera footage and played portions of it for reporters. The full version of the video was given to the media after the press conference.
The provided footage shows two encounters between Kilburn and Campbell on March 11, 2019. On that day, Kilburn was trying to visit his wife at UVM Medical Center. Staff called police because Kilburn was screaming and being disruptive in the waiting room, according to the video.
During this first encounter, Campbell meets Kilburn, who’s waiting in his car, and walks Kilburn to his wife's hospital room.
"Just remain civil," Campbell tells Kilburn as he goes into his wife's hospital room.
Campbell encounters Kilburn again that day at the hospital when Kilburn blocks the ambulance bay with his car. Kilburn is arguing with hospital security when Campbell approaches.
"Are you going to trespass him?" Campbell asks.
"You don’t need to trespass me, I’m leaving," Kilburn says and begins to slowly drive away.
Kilburn starts to pull away, then stops the car and yells at someone, not seen on camera. That’s when Campbell yells at Kilburn telling him to "shut the f--- up and leave." Still in his car, Kilburn turns and calls Campbell "a f---ing punk."
Campell starts to walk away, but turns back to the car as Kilburn continues to yell. As Campbell approaches the car, Kilburn gets out, shouting: "You ain't got a right to swear at me, motherf---er." Kilburn then appears to punch Campbell, who hits Kilburn in return.
Kilburn falls to the ground and is handcuffed.
Richard Cassidy, an attorney representing the police union, said the video shows that Kilburn starts the fight.
"This is a simple case of self-defense," Cassidy said Wednesday. "It's obvious that Campbell should not be charged with any crime."
Burlington Police Chief Brandon del Pozo declined to comment on Campbell's actions, citing the ongoing review of the case by Attorney General TJ Donovan. Donovan told VPR last week his office is still reviewing the case.
The death of Kilburn is one of several recent incidents that raised questions about police conduct in Burlington. In May, federal lawsuits alleged Burlington police used excessive force against two black men. In response to calls for reform, the Burlington City Council created a special committee to review police policy.
Clarification 10:25 a.m. 7/9/2019 Descriptions of the body camera footage have been updated to include more detail and clarify the timing of events.