Fighting back tears, Gov. John Carney addressed the media Thursday morning after a hostage situation at the Vaughn Correctional Center near Smyrna ended with the death of correctional officer Sgt. Steven Floyd.
Fighting back tears, Gov. John Carney addressed the media Thursday morning after a hostage situation in Smyrna's prison ended with the death of correctional officer Sgt. Steven Floyd.
“It's a very sad day across the state of Delaware with the loss of one of our brave correctional officers,” the governor said during the press conference at Delaware State Police Troop 2 in Glasgow. “My prayers all day yesterday was that this event would end with a different result. But it didn't. So today all of us mourn the family of Sgt. Floyd.”
Perry Phelps, commissioner for the Delaware Department of Correction, said Floyd – a correctional officer for 16 years at James T. Vaughn Correctional Center in Smyrna – was pronounced dead this morning at 5:29 a.m. An autopsy is being performed to determine the cause of death.
The uprising at Vaughn Correctional Center started Wednesday morning around 10:30 a.m. when prisoners took four hostages in Building C.
Phelps said one hostage was released at 2:25 p.m. A second was released around 8 p.m. At 10:52 p.m., three maintenance workers who were hiding in the basement, unbeknownst to inmates, worked their way to the roof where a tactical team rescued them.
Phelps said police stormed Building C at 5:06 a.m. on Thursday and rescued the third hostage, a female staff member. Sgt. Floyd, the fourth hostage, was found unresponsive and pronounced dead at 5:29 a.m. Authorities secured the building at 5:32 a.m.
Secretary Robert Coupe from the Delaware Department of Safety and Homeland Security said a backhoe was used to breach a barricade of footlockers that inmates in Building C had filled with water.
A tactical team quickly located the female staff member and had her removed safely from the building in less than two minutes. Coupe said inmates helped to shield her from danger.
An early plan to storm the Building C was to use one of Maryland State Police's breaching vehicles. But eventually the tactical team “came up with another plan and that was to use a backhoe,” Coupe said.
The secretary said 120 inmates were in Building C and all are considered suspects in this investigation. Coupe said there are plans to get the attorney general's office involved to ensure “the appropriate charges are filed and the perpetrators are brought to justice.”
While Coupe didn't share a motive for the inmates' attack or the weapons they used, he did say they had “sharp instruments.”
When asked if Vaughn Correctional Center is understaffed, Coupe responded: “We face death and challenges everyday throughout the state. Statewide, we're down on any given day about 90 positions.
"But we have over 1,700 positions." It's common practice, Coupe said, for overtime to be used to fill those staffing holes.
Coupe said the commissioner told him the minimum number of workers at the prison during the hostage uprising had been the same as the amount of staff they have on a daily basis.
Vaughn Correctional Center is the state's largest adult, male correctional facility. Currently, the prison houses approximately 2,500 inmates, according to the Correctional Center's website. The prison holds minimum, medium and maximum security inmates.
The hostage situation that ended Thursday came more than a decade later after a female counselor was raped at the Smyrna prison in 2004.
Secretary Coupe said he and Commissioner Phelps are accountable for this current tragedy. Moving forward, Coupe said he'll examine this situation to see if he needs to make adjustments in the areas of “policy, procedures and staffing.”
Gov. Carney insisted he'll figure out a way to improve Delaware's prison system.
“We will leave no stone unturned,” Carney said. “We will bring every resource that we have to sort of this issue and this problem to make sure that correctional facilities are secure and that employees that work there are safe.”