Burlington to Pay $45K Settlement in Kilburn Wrongful Death Case
The City of Burlington has reached a $45,000 settlement with the family of Douglas Kilburn, who died in 2019 after a Burlington police officer punched him.
A city spokesperson confirmed the deal Saturday, which was first reported by VTDigger.org. The city’s insurer will pay the settlement.
Kilburn’s estate filed a wrongful death lawsuit last November, alleging that Officer Cory Campbell used excessive force when he punched Kilburn in the ambulance bay at the University of Vermont Medical Center, breaking several bones in his face. Kilburn was hospitalized, then found dead in his home a few days later.
The lawsuit alleged that Mayor Miro Weinberger and former police chief Brandon del Pozo tried to cover up Campbell’s actions by attempting to influence Kilburn’s official cause of death on his state-issued death certificate.
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In a statement, Weinberger said he hoped that the settlement “brings peace of mind and overdue closure to the Kilburn family for their tragic loss.”
The city and its officials named in the suit, including Weinberger, del Pozo and Campbell, did not admit liability, city spokesperson Samantha Sheehan said. The city’s insurer determined “on economic grounds” that the deal was “preferable to incurring the cost of a successful defense.”
Kilburn’s attorneys, Brattleboro-based Evan Chadwick and Robb Spensley, declined to comment.
The police department formally reprimanded Campbell for using profanity during the interaction with Kilburn, but Attorney General T.J. Donovan did not bring criminal charges against him.
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The payout resolves one of three recent civil lawsuits the city has been facing for its police officers’ actions. Each incident has been a rallying point for racial justice activists and police reformers who have protested in Burlington since George Floyd’s murder in May 2020.
Mabior Jok, a Sudanese Vermonter, is suing over his arrest in September 2018 during which Officer Joseph Corrow took him to the ground while intervening in what the officer said was a fight on a downtown sidewalk.
Jérémie Meli, a Congolese immigrant, is suing over another September 2018 incident. Former police supervisor Jason Bellavance shoved Meli into a wall without warning while responding to a report that Meli had been involved in a bar fight. The blow knocked Meli out, leading to a chaotic scene as Meli’s brothers, Charlie and Albin, attempted to intervene.
Both the Melis and Jok allege excessive force and racial discrimination. They are represented by the same law firm that represented Kilburn’s estate.
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The city has denied their claims, and recently filed motions for summary judgment in both cases.
The filing in the Meli case reveals that Bellavance was suspended for four days without pay following an internal investigation into the incident. Police officials had not previously specified the length of his suspension.
Racial justice activists who occupied Battery Park for weeks last summer demanded that the city fire Campbell, Corrow and Bellavance for their actions.
The city subsequently negotiated a buyout with Bellavance, paying him $300,000 to leave the force.