DELAWARE—Officials from the Smyrna Police Department were able to stop what the governor of Delaware called a “torturous” hostage standoff at Delaware’s largest prison on Thursday, February 2. The incident left one guard dead.
It was described by another hostage that the inmates used “sharp instruments” to gain control inside a building at the James T. Vaughn Correction Center on Wednesday, February 1. The inmates took three prison guards and a female counselor hostage. The inmates told a local newspaper that concerns about their treatment and the leadership of the United States had prompted their actions.
Sgt. Steven Floyd, a 16-year veteran with the prisons agency, was killed during the takeover. Details regarding Floyd’s cause of death were not released to the public.
Inmates negotiated to have the water turned on, which authorities said the prisoners used to fill up small foot lockers to build a wall at the prison entryways.
Delaware State Police entered the building just after 5 a.m. Thursday and found Floyd unresponsive. He was pronounced dead about 25 minutes later.
The counselor, a Department of Correction employee, was rescued. Delaware Department of Safety and Homeland Security Robert Coupe indicated some inmates shielded her from harm. She is currently being examined at a local hospital.
“My prayers all day yesterday was that this event would end with a different result but it didn’t,” said Governor John Carney. “So today all of us mourn for the family of Sgt. Floyd.”
The prison is located in Smyrna, about 15 miles north of Dover, the state capital. Governor Carney indicated the priority is to investigate as to what happened and why.
A statement was released on Thursday by the governor indicating officials will “hold accountable anyone who was responsible” for taking the hostages. He we will “make whatever changes are necessary to ensure nothing like it ever happens again.”
It is still unclear whether other inmates had been held against their will. Coupe said all 120 inmates in the building were considered suspects, while Department of Corrections Commissioner Perry Phelps said dozens of inmates had been “released” during the standoff.
The incident began about 10:30 a.m. on Wednesday. A correctional officer inside Building C of the prison requested immediate assistance via radio, Delaware State Police spokesman Sgt. Richard Bratz said. Other officers responded to help, and the employees were taken hostage.
A press release from the Delaware Department of Corrections indicated over 14 more inmates were released about 12:30 a.m. Thursday from the building. A total of 46 inmates had been released from the building during the standoff.
The hostage situation drew dozens of officers and law enforcement vehicles and prompted a statewide lockdown of all prisons. The first hostage was released Wednesday afternoon and another was released hours later. Both had injuries that are were not life-threatening, authorities said.
Three maintenance workers who had been hiding in the basement were able to make their way to the roof to be rescued Phelps reported.
According to the department’s website, the prison is Delaware’s largest correctional facility for men, with about 2,500 inmates. It includes minimum, medium, and maximum security inmates, and the facility also houses detainees awaiting trial in Kent County.
Around 1,500 corrections officers are employed at the prison, according to counsel for the Correctional Officers Association of Delaware Bruce Rogers.
In 2004, inmate Scott Miller, 45, raped a counselor and took her hostage for nearly seven hours, according to the Associated Press. A department sharpshooter later shot and killed Miller ending the hostage situation.