Delaware Public Media

1 dead after police break hostage standoff at Vaughn Correctional Center

Feb 1, 2017

 

One correction officer is dead after a 19-hour standoff at James T. Vaughn Correctional Center in Smyrna.

 

Both Delaware and Maryland State Police and other officials broke into C building at James T. Vaughn around 5:00 a.m. Thursday using a backhoe.

 

They rescued a female counselor in good health, but found 47-year-old Sgt. Steven Floyd unresponsive. The 16-year-veteran officer was later pronounced dead. It's unclear how Floyd died.

 

Inmates released two other corrections officers on Wednesday.  They have been examined and released from the hospital.

 

State officials turned building water pipes back on as part of negotiations, only to have inmates use that against them as they tried to gain entrance Thursday morning.

 

“They filled footlockers with water, which created very heavy building blocks and they used those blocks to build a wall at the entranceways," said state Safety and Homeland Security Secretary Robert Coupe.

 

46 inmates left Building C before law enforcement went in Thursday. 74 more were brought out after it was secured.

 

“At this time, we would consider all [120 inmates] suspects in this investigation," said Coupe. "So when they came out – whether it was voluntary – they were taken into custody.”

 

Gov. John Carney (D) and others had tears in their eyes during Thursday morning's press briefing.

 

“The best way that we can honor Sgt. Steven Floyd is to do this work diligently together and expeditiously,” Carney said.

 

Carney ordered flags at half-staff statewide in honor of Floyd and reiterated

his commitment to thoroughly investigate the incident.

"Today we mourn, and tomorrow - and for a long time going forward - we also have to investigate what happened here, determine the facts, and make sure it never happens again," said Carney.

Wednesday, state officials initially said prisoners overpowered five employees around 10:30 a.m., but one was found safe in another part of the prison under lockdown.

One hostage was released in exchange for a phone call Wednesday afternoon and inmates released another around 8 p.m.

Building C, where the standoff was centered, holds more than 100 inmates.  Coupe wouldn’t directly address if corrections officers are understaffed to handle the facility’s inmate population of 2,500.

"We face staffing challenges every day," said Coupe.

Delaware's Congressional delegation issued a joint statement, reacting to the death of Sgt. Floyd in the resolution of the standoff.

“Our hearts are broken for the family and friends of the officer that was killed at the Vaughn Correctional Center earlier this morning. We will keep Steven Floyd in our prayers, and reach out to his loved ones to offer our support. Today is a day of mourning for all of Delaware," the statement read. 

"Our thoughts are with the correctional officers who were harmed, and we hope they have a full and speedy recovery. We are particularly thankful for their service and for the law enforcement officials who worked throughout the night to resolve this situation. We stand ready to work with Governor Carney and local and federal law enforcement to prevent a situation like this from happening in Delaware or elsewhere in our country.”

The last hostage situation at the Vaughn Correctional Center was in 2004 when an inmate raped a counselor and took her hostage for nearly seven hours at the Smyrna facility, 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 that standoff.