Death of man days after police altercation ruled homicide
BURLINGTON, Vt. (AP) — The office of Vermont’s chief medical examiner has ruled that the death of a man found three days after he was hit in the head by a Burlington police officer was a homicide, according to the death certificate released Wednesday.
The cause of death of Douglas Kilburn, 54, of Burlington, was “undetermined terminal mechanism” due to underlying conditions, including high blood pressure, cardiac and cerebral vascular disease, obesity, diabetes, and skull fractures due to blunt impact. The Vermont State Police, which is investigating the death at the request of Burlington police, announced the release of the findings.
State police continue to investigate the death as it would any officer-involved death. Once the investigation has been completed, it will be turned over to the office of the Vermont attorney general, which will decide whether to file charges.
Kilburn hit officer Cory Campbell in the face in the emergency department’s parking lot, where Kilburn was blocking the ambulance bays with his vehicle on March 11, Burlington Police Chief Brandon del Pozo said. Campbell then punched Kilburn in the face, brought him to the ground and handcuffed him, del Pozo said.
Kilburn was treated at the hospital and released the next day. He was found dead two days later in his home when police were asked to do a welfare check on him.
Del Pozo said at a news conference Wednesday afternoon that Campbell, who has since been placed on administrative duties, struck Kilburn “a few” times but couldn’t say how many.
“The officer’s punches caused small, non-displaced fractures to his skull,” del Pozo said in an earlier news release. The officer’s body camera footage has been turned over to the state police.
The attorney general’s office will do a review of the state police report.
Police are permitted to use force to protect themselves and others, and if they’re being attacked, to end it, del Pozo said.
“In most cases they’re expected to deescalate the situation, right, using verbal tactics, using the physical tactics we talk about with our emergency response vehicle,” said del Pozo. “But in the instance of just like an out and out fight, when you’re fighting in like a parking lot, you know an officer is for example permitted to punch someone.”
The president of the local police union said in the written statement that the finding from the medical examiner’s office “does not imply that Officer Campbell did anything wrong. In fact, he did not.”