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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 said to have been brought to a hospital in St. Albans City, Vt., where he was pronounced dead. According to the VSP, his body will be brought to the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Burlington to determine the cause and manner of his death.

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Police described Giroux as a participant in a melee that unfolded Tuesday after attendees rushed the court during a seventh-/eighth-grade game between Alburgh and St. Albans City. Per the VSP, police were called to the Alburgh Community Education Center just before 7 p.m. for "a report of a large fight involving multiple spectators." When officers arrived, the fight had ended and some of the participants had left, including Giroux. He subsequently sought medical attention, and an ambulance took him to the hospital.

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

The executive director of the Vermont Principals' Association, Jay Nichols, told WCAX that game officials were not sure why the fight started.

"They were reffing the game, and the next thing he knew people were out on the court punching each other," Nichols said. "There was one person that had blood all over their face. They got a parent to call the police."

Officials with the schools involved shared their dismay over the incident and urged better behavior from community members.

"The Maple Run Unified School District condemns the violence that occurred during the basketball game," a statement issued by St. Albans City said. "We expect better from our communities. Fighting and violence are wholly inconsistent with the behaviors we encourage and support. We always seek to foster a positive learning environment in school and at school events for our students. The tragic events that preceded Mr. Giroux's death have caused our schools to evaluate school programs and community involvement."

St. Albans City added that it was providing supportive measures for students and expressed concern about a "recent spate of spectator misconduct at school sporting events throughout Vermont." In one episode, a state school district said it was indefinitely banning attendees from its boys' basketball games as it looked into an allegation of a "racially charged word" being uttered toward a player, as well as other "negative interactions between adult fans" and high school athletes after spectators reportedly rushed the court following a game.

On Wednesday, the Grand Isle Supervisory Union said of the incident in Alburgh: "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 community to commit to the positive culture that our school community expects and deserves."

Multiple law enforcement agencies are investigating the brawl and Giroux's death, and police said they were interested in speaking with anyone with information.

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