A corrections officer was found dead this morning after authorities barged into a building at a Delaware prison that was taken over by inmates over 18 hours earlier.
At 5:06 AM this morning, authorities used a backhoe to break entry into Building C of the James T. Vaughn Correction Center in Smyrma, DE, thus bringing an end to a hostage standoff that began at 10:30 AM on Wednesday. A female prison counselor was rescued without any injuries, but Sgt. Steven Floyd, a 16-year departmental veteran, was found dead.
"This serves as a tragic reminder that members of law enforcement risk their lives every day on behalf of the people of Delaware," said Delaware Governor John Carney in a statement issued this morning.
Two other corrections officers had been released by the inmates yesterday, one in the early afternoon and another in the evening. Three maintenance workers had been in the basement when the inmates' takeover of Building C ensued. Last night, the workers were able to make it to the roof of the building, whereupon they were rescued. The inmates had no knowledge of the workers, said Dept. of Corrections Commissioner Perry Phelps.
While it is not clear how many inmates are responsible for the hostage standoff, all 120 inmates who were being housed in Building C are currently being considered as suspects for the crimes committed. The James T. Vaughn Correctional Center is the state's largest maximum security facility, housing 2,500 inmates and employing 1,500 corrections officers. All Delaware prisons were put on lockdown shortly after the hostage situation began.
Aside from the two officers who had been released, there were other inmates who left the building -- dozens, according to The News Journal, but it is unclear if they did so voluntarily. At this time, authorities did not offer an idea as to how many inmates were involved in starting and carrying out the uprising.
Investigators said the inmates used "sharp instruments" in taking control of the premises, but did not further specify about their weapons or hostage-taking tactics. Sgt. Floyd's cause of death has not yet been identified. The 47-year-old officer's body has been turned over to the state Division of Forensic Science for an autopsy.
As mentioned, the female counselor was found unharmed. She had reportedly been protected by other inmates during the standoff.
Authorities had turned on the water inside the prison as part of their negotiations with the hostage-takers, though inmates used the water to fill metal footlockers in order to use them as barricades. Police and prison officials said that inmates had used stalling tactics while negotiating in order to further prevent entry into the building.
At around 2 PM on Wednesday, The News Journal received a call from a woman who said her husband was an inmate being held hostage at the prison. Then a News Journal reporter heard the voice of a man, who told her that he was being ordered to report the demands of the hostage-takers to the newspaper.
"I'm just doing what I'm being told to. I'm just trying to help, ma'am," said the man. "They just need somebody to hear their demands."
"Improper sentencing orders. Status sheets being wrong. Oppression towards the inmates," said the same man, relaying the grievances of the revolting inmates.
Another call was placed to The News Journal through a woman who said her son was an inmate being held hostage. "We're trying to explain the reasons for doing what we’re doing," said a certain inmate once the call reached the prison. The same voice then implicated President Donald Trump as being an impetus for the prison takeover.
"Donald Trump. Everything that he did. All the things that he’s doing now. We know that the institution is going to change for the worse," said the inmate.
"We got demands that you need to pay attention to, that you need to listen to and you need to let them know," he continued. "Education, we want education first and foremost. We want a rehabilitation program that works for everybody. We want the money to be allocated so we can know exactly what is going on in the prison, the budget."
The Delaware state flag is currently flying at half-staff in honor of Sgt. Floyd. The corrections department said in a statement that "Sergeant Floyd remained steadfast and never wavered in his duties as a sworn law enforcement Officer."