Kilburn Family Files Wrongful Death Claim Against Burlington | Off Message

Kilburn Family Files Wrongful Death Claim Against Burlington

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Douglas Kilburn (left) and Officer Cory Campbell - COURTESY OF LISA WEBBER | BURLINGTON POLICE DEPARTMENT
  • Courtesy of Lisa Webber | Burlington Police Department
  • Douglas Kilburn (left) and Officer Cory Campbell
The family of Douglas Kilburn is suing the City of Burlington, the mayor and police over his death last year following an altercation with a city cop outside the University of Vermont Medical Center.

The civil complaint, filed Wednesday afternoon in U.S. District Court, accuses Officer Cory Campbell of using excessive force when he punched Kilburn in the face, breaking multiple bones. The officer's actions in March 2019 ultimately caused Kilburn's "unjustified death," his family asserts.

The suit also targets former police chief Brandon del Pozo and Mayor Miro Weinberger, claiming they tried to conceal Campbell's wrongful conduct by seeking to change the state medical examiner's conclusions in the case.



Notably,  the family's claims in this suit do not extend to the hospital, which treated Kilburn for his facial injuries and discharged him. He was found dead at home a few days later.

Kilburn had been seeking to visit his wife, Cheryl, who was a patient at the time, when private security guards called police for backup. He was said to be "irate" at the hospital and had been denied access to see her. Campbell helped resolve the dispute and escorted Kilburn to his wife's bedside.
Later, as Campbell was exiting the hospital, he came upon Kilburn arguing again with a security guard from the driver's seat of his SUV. This time, Campbell yelled at the man to "shut the fuck up and leave," triggering a physical confrontation that left Kilburn bloodied in the ambulance bay.

Attorney General T.J. Donovan elected not to prosecute Campbell on the grounds that Kilburn had seemed to throw the first, albeit much less forceful, punch. He faulted the cop for antagonizing the 54-year-old Kilburn, who was in poor physical and mental health at the time.
Burlington police later reprimanded Campbell for his use of profanity, and he remains on the force.

The case became a political flashpoint after Seven Days and VTDigger.org published emails showing that del Pozo and Weinberger tried to persuade top state officials not to release the state medical examiner's finding that Kilburn's manner of death was a homicide. Their arguments, made to Vermont Department of Health officials and Gov. Phil Scott's office, were unsuccessful, but provoked a backlash.

Activists continue to call for Campbell to be fired.
The city currently faces two other civil rights cases related to officers' use of force. A suit brought last year by brothers Jérémie, Charlie and Albin Meli is headed toward trial after multiple mediation attempts failed. Campbell is named in that suit as well.
A fourth case, brought earlier this year by Mohamed Luhizo, was dropped in June.

The Brattleboro law firm Chadwick & Spensley has represented the plaintiffs in each of the recent cases, including Kilburn's wife and stepson.

The city paid $273,000 in 2019 to settle an earlier wrongful death lawsuit brought by the estate of Wayne Brunette, whom an officer shot and killed while Brunette was experiencing a mental health crisis.

Read the suit here: