Corrections Officer Killed in Del. Hostage Situation

SMYRNA, Del. (WJZ) – The president of the Correctional Officers Association of Delaware says the death of a corrections officer at a Delaware prison could have been prevented.

He says lack of staff contributed to the prisoner uprising that left Sgt. Steven Floyd dead at the James T. Vaughn Correctional Center in Smyrna.

“We’ve been asking for help from the previous governor and we got none,” Geoff Klopp said at an afternoon press conference. “I can’t say it was inevitable, but I can say it was preventable.”

Jack Markell was the governor of Delaware from 2009 until last month. Governor John Carney was sworn in Jan. 17.

Klopp called for “sustainable salaries” and “reasonable retention” for the department.

The uprising began Wednesday morning around 10:30 a.m. and ended this morning.

At 5:06 a.m., Delaware State Police were able to breach the C building of the facility. Two hostages had been safely released late Wednesday. Two hostages were still being held.

One of them, a female correctional officer at the prison, was safely rescued and taken to an area hospital. Floyd was found unresponsive. He was pronounced dead just before 5:30 a.m.

Shortly after 5:30 a.m., the building was fully secured, according to Deputy Commissioner of the Delaware Department of Corrections Perry Phelps.

At a press conference Thursday morning, Phelps said Floyd was a 16-year veteran of the department.

Floyd, 47, served all 16 years with the Department of Corrections at Vaughn Correctional Center. He received the facility’s Warden’s Award for outstanding performance last year.

Klopp said Floyd worked overtime three or four times a week “to put his kids through college.”

“He loved them with all his heart,” he said.

Additional details about the standoff were also released at the morning press conference.

According to Robert Coupe, head of Delaware’s homeland security department, all 120 inmates who were in the building are considered suspects in the investigation.

Coupe also said that three maintenance workers who were hiding in the basement that the inmates didn’t know about made their way up to the roof and made it out safely with the help of tactical teams shortly before 11 p.m.

Some of the people who came out of the building — though it is unclear if it was workers who escaped or inmates — told police that inmates filled foot lockers with water to build a blockade at entryways.

A backhoe was eventually used to breech the building this morning.

Investigators don’t yet know a motive or have a description of the weapons the inmates used.

WJZ Investigator Mike Hellgren reports there are demonstrations outside the facility this morning.

The James T. Vaughn facility, which opened in 1971, is the largest prison for male inmates in Delaware. Some are on death row, about 100 inmates were in the building fellow prisoners took control of.

In 2004, an inmate there raped a counselor and took her hostage for nearly seven hours, according to an Associated Press report at the time. A department sharpshooter later shot and killed 45-year-old Scott Miller, according to the report, ending the standoff.

Delaware Governor Johyn Carney released the following statement Thursday morning:

“I’m praying hard for the fallen officer’s family. This serves as a tragic reminder that members of law enforcement risk their lives every day on behalf of the people of Delaware. We will stand by the fallen officer’s family and fellow law enforcement officers during what is an extremely difficult time. 

This was a long and agonizing situation. I want to thank all those involved in responding, including officers at the Department of Correction and the Delaware State Police, as well as our federal partners. Our priority now will be to determine what happened and how this happened. We will hold accountable anyone who was responsible. And we will make whatever changes are necessary to ensure nothing like it ever happens again.”

According to the department’s website, the prison is Delaware’s largest correctional facility for men. It houses minimum, medium, and maximum security inmates, and also houses Kent County detainees awaiting trial. It employs 1,500 corrections officers, according to authorities.

The prison opened in 1971 and was the site of the state’s death row and where executions were carried out.

In 2004, an inmate there raped a counselor and took her hostage for nearly seven hours at the Smyrna prison, according to an Associated Press report at the time. A department sharpshooter later shot and killed 45-year-old Scott Miller, according to the report, ending the standoff.

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