Vermont man dies after brawl during middle school basketball game


A 60-year-old man died this week shortly after participating in a brawl that broke out during a middle school basketball game, Vermont state police said Wednesday.

Russell Giroux of Alburgh, Vt., was reported to have been taken to a hospital in St. Albans City, Vt., where he was pronounced dead. According to the VST, his body will be taken to the Chief Medical Examiner’s office in Burlington for a determination of the cause and manner of death.

Police described Giroux as a participant in a hand-to-hand fight that unfolded on Tuesday after participants stormed the court during a seventh/eighth grade game between Alburgh and St Albans City. According to the VST, police were called to the Alburgh Community Education Center just before 7pm for “a report of a large fight involving several bystanders”. By the time officers arrived, the fight had ended and some of the contestants had left, including Giroux. He then consulted a doctor and was taken to the hospital in an ambulance.

According to Burlington broadcaster WCAX, video of the incident showed at least two players joining in the melee along with more than a dozen adults.

Vermont Principals’ Association executive director Jay Nichols told WCAX that game officials weren’t sure why the fight started.

“They reefed the game, and the next thing he knew, there were people on the court hitting each other,” Nichols said. “There was one person who had blood all over his face. You have a parent calling the police.”

Officials from the schools involved shared their dismay at the incident and urged community members to behave better.

“The Maple Run Unified School District condemns the violence that occurred during the basketball game,” St. Albans City said in a statement. “We expect better from our communities. Fighting and violence are totally incompatible with the behaviors we encourage and support. We always strive to promote a positive learning environment at school and at school events for our students. The tragic events that preceded the death of Mr Giroux have prompted our schools to evaluate school programs and community engagement.”

St. Albans City added that it provides supportive measures for students and expressed concern about a “recent spate of spectator misconduct at school sporting events across Vermont.” In one episode, a state school district said it was indefinitely banning participants from its boys’ basketball games because it was investigating allegations that a “racially charged word” was uttered towards a player and other “negative interactions between adult fans.” and high school athletes after spectators reportedly stormed the court after a game.

On Wednesday, the Grand Isle Supervisory Union said of the Alburgh incident: “Our immediate goal is to remind and educate our students and families that our school culture is one of family, community and kindness. We need our students and the community to advocate for the positive culture that our school community expects and deserves.”

Several law enforcement agencies are investigating the beating and Giroux’s death, and police said they were interested in speaking to anyone with information.

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