Public Safety

Alburgh man dies following fight at middle school basketball game

People throw punches and wrestle during what police called a "melee" at a middle school boys' basketball game in Alburgh on Tuesday, Jan. 31. Screenshot of video courtesy of @HalfBaked802/Twitter

Updated at 7:37 p.m.

A 60-year-old man died following a fight at a middle school basketball game in Alburgh Tuesday night, according to police.

Russell Giroux, of Alburgh, was pronounced dead at Northwestern Medical Center in St. Albans, Vermont State Police said in a press release early Wednesday morning. In a subsequent release issued Wednesday night, state police said they had determined that Giroux had been driving home from the game when he called 911. First responders found him in his vehicle.

Police were called to the Alburgh Community Education Center shortly before 7 p.m. Tuesday evening to respond to reports of a “large fight involving multiple spectators,” officials said. 

Police said Wednesday night that the investigation into what prompted the fight was still ongoing.

The basketball game was among seventh and eighth grade boys from the Alburgh school and St. Albans City Elementary School.

A brief video of the fight reviewed by VTDigger shows a chaotic scene in which about a dozen people converge on the basketball court, some throwing punches at one another and others wrestling on the ground, as another person appears to be herding players out of the way in the background. At least one student wearing a basketball uniform appears to throw multiple punches at adults who are also fighting, the video shows.

Jay Nichols, executive director of the Vermont Principals’ Association, said the fight started between adults in the bleachers and then spilled out onto the court.

“The melee ended before troopers arrived on scene, and some participants had departed the school,” police wrote in the overnight release. 

Police said one of those individuals, identified as Giroux, sought medical attention after the game and was taken to the St. Albans hospital. It was not clear as of Wednesday night whether Giroux’s death was a result of being involved in the fight.

State police said the Chief Medical Examiner’s Office had performed an autopsy on Giroux but that the cause and manner of his death were “listed as pending further investigation.”

Two students who did not take part in the fight were also taken to the hospital with minor injuries Tuesday after they became upset and punched a wall, according to Terry Tatro, the Alburgh town fire warden, who was one of the local first responders on the scene.

Grand Isle State's Attorney Doug DiSabito, who is assisting with the police investigation, said he sees Tuesday night’s incident as part of a recent, larger trend of spectator misconduct at school sports games across the state. 

Last month, girls’ basketball games between Enosburg Falls High School and Middlebury Union High School were canceled because Enosburg student spectators had made what officials called “racially inappropriate comments” toward Middlebury players; fans were also banned from Bellows Free Academy-Fairfax boys’ basketball games after at least one spectator allegedly made racist taunts during a game against Milton High School. 

“This is terribly, terribly sad,” DiSabito said of the fight in Alburgh. “And people that were engaged in it should be ashamed of themselves.”

Nichols, of the principals’ association, said that if any school “doesn’t feel like they can control their own parents,” the organization recommends that school bar parents from coming to games, even though the number of people causing issues may be small.

Administrators from both the Grand Isle Supervisory Union, which serves Alburgh, and the Maple Run Unified School district, which serves St. Albans, condemned the incident in statements Wednesday.

“We need our students and community to commit to the positive culture that our school community expects and deserves,” the Grand Isle administrators said.

Maggie Cassidy contributed reporting.

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Shaun Robinson

About Shaun

Shaun Robinson is a Report for America corps member with a special focus on issues of importance to Franklin and Grand Isle counties. He is a journalism graduate of Boston University, with a minor in political science. His work has appeared in the Boston Globe, the Patriot Ledger of Quincy and the Cape Cod Times.


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