Body cam video: Incident escalated after officer, Burlington man traded expletives

Local News

Newly released body-cam video of a confrontation between a Burlington police officer and a man who died two days later shows the incident escalated into violence after the two men swore at each other.

Douglas Kilburn, 54, was found dead in his Burlington home three days after he and Officer Corey Campbell traded punches outside UVM Medical Center.

The video released Wednesday by the Burlington Police Officers Association shows the two men appeared to go their separate ways peacefully after Campbell escorted Kilburn to his wife’s hospital room.

After responding to another, unrelated call at the hospital, Campbell found Kilburn in his vehicle, arguing with hospital staff members in the ambulance bay.

Kilburn announces he’s leaving and starts to drive away. The men swear at each other and Campbell begins to walk away — until Kilburn yells another expletive.

Campbell then turns around and, as he approaches the car, Kilburn gets out, yelling more expletives and saying the officer had no right to swear at him.

Campbell appears to put his hands on Kilburn, who throws at least two punches at the officer before Campbell knocks him down. The video shows Kilburn on the ground, bleeding from his face, as Campbell handcuffs him.

“Although the language looks kind of bad on video, it’s more of a direct language approach,” Burlington Police Cpl. David Clements said. “It’s an escalation of a verbal command before it turned physical, which he obviously did not control.”

Richard Cassidy, a BPOA lawyer representing Campbell, said the video shows the officer acted reasonably after Kilburn threw the first punches.

“Officer Campbell acts quickly and solely to defend himself after he’s been struck,” he said. “This is a simple case of self-defense. It’s obvious that Campbell should not be charged with any crime.”

Kilburn was treated for skull fractures and was released from the hospital the next day. Two days after his release, he was found dead in his apartment.

Following an autopsy, the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner ruled Kilburn’s death a homicide. The cause was “undetermined”, the ruling said, although there were “contributing factors”, including a fractured skull caused by Campbell’s punch.

In April, the BPOA sued the city for the body camera footage, saying Campbell should be able to review it before speaking to investigators to prevent misstatements and lapses in memory. City officials had argued allowing him access could hamper the investigation.

On Monday, a judge ordered the city to release the footage, and Cassidy said Wednesday that Campbell is now willing to be interviewed by Vermont State Police as part of the agency’s investigation into the officer’s use of force in the incident.  

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