Death Of Burlington Man, Who Had Police Altercation Days Earlier, Ruled A Homicide

Apr 10, 2019

Vermont's chief medical examiner has ruled 54-year-old Douglas Kilburn's death was a homicide, but could not identify a specific cause of death.

Kilburn's death certificate — released Wednesday — lists several contributing factors, including cardiac disease, obesity, diabetes, as well as skull fractures from an impact. Three days before Kilburn was found dead, the Burlington man was in an altercation with police outside UVM Medical Center. 

According to police, Kilburn assaulted a police officer outside the hospital's emergency department on March 11, leading Burlington Police Officer Cory Campbell to punch Kilburn in the face. Kilburn was treated for his injuries but then found dead in his apartment days later, on March 14.

Burlington Police Chief Brandon del Pozo said Wednesday that Campbell is currently on administrative duty.

Vermont Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Steven Shapiro's recent ruling of Kilburn's manner of death as a "homicide" on the death certificate reflects the medical definition of homicide, and it does not make any kind of legal determination related to the death.

This distinction was raised in the Burlington's police union's defense of Campbell's actions. In a written statement Wednesday, Burlington Police Officers' Association President Dan Gilligan said:

"The homicide finding of Vermont State Chief Medical Examiner, Dr. Steven Shapiro, does not mean the Officer Campbell did anything wrong. It only means that Dr. Shapiro believes Kilburn died as a result of his contact with Campbell, not that Campbell acted inappropriately."

At a press conference Wednesday, del Pozo wouldn't comment on Campbell's use of force, but he said, in general, officers can use strikes if they're in a fight.

"In every police academy I'm aware of, it's made clear that an officer may punch someone in the head if doing so is necessary to defend him or herself," the chief said.

Del Pozo also said his department will conduct their own review after Vermont State Police and the Attorney General's Office complete their investigation.