A middle school basketball game in a 2,000-person town, tucked in the northwestern corner of Vermont near the Canadian border, has emerged into the spotlight as a focal point for bad spectator behavior after a brawl Tuesday night resulted in the death of one man.
Police were called shortly before 7 p.m. to the Alburgh Community Education Center where Alburgh was hosting St. Albans after reports of a “large fight involving multiple spectators,” police said, according to Vermont Digger.
Cell phone video showed that a number of adults were gathered in one major pileup, while general pushing and shoving surrounded the flying fists.
WARNING: The following video contains vulgar language and graphic violence that some viewers may find disturbing.
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One man involved, Russell Giroux, 60, was stricken after the game. He was taken to a hospital, where he died.
The game involved students in the seventh and eighth grades.
According to WPTZ-TV, the fight started after a fan commented on a referee’s call.
“In some respects, I’m at a loss for words. This should never happen,” Grand Isle State’s Attorney Doug DiSabito said, according to WCAX-TV.
DiSabito added, “Very sad. And it’s because of adults and I’m sad for my community,” Vermont Digger reported.
DiSabito said a larger trend of bad behavior has been marring school sports. One recent game was canceled after student spectators made comments deemed racially inappropriate, with a similar reason given for banning fans at another game.
“This is terribly, terribly sad,” DiSabito said about the Alburgh incident. “And people that were engaged in it should be ashamed of themselves.”
Two students were injured Tuesday after they punched a wall, said Terry Tatro, the Alburgh town fire warden and a first responder at the scene.
“Although we can not speak specifically about the events at this individual game, we would like to once again emphasize that middle and high school sports are educational and are for the benefit of the student-athletes,” he said. “Spectators that cannot behave appropriately can be barred from events and can face criminal charges.”
Maple Run Unified School District superintendent Bill Kimball, whose district includes the St. Albans City School, said, "The tragic events that preceded Mr. Giroux’s death have caused our schools to evaluate school programs and community involvement,” according to Vermont's Seven Days.
Kimball deplored "the recent spate of spectator misconduct at school sporting events throughout Vermont" and asked the Agency of Education and the Vermont Principals' Association "to give consideration as to how best to respond to misbehavior by spectators and to act decisively to limit the harm that can be caused to students or other attendees."
A letter from the Grande Isle Supervisory Union officials to Alburgh parents said officials wanted 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.”
Vermont State Police are investigating the incident.
This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.