A corrections officer was killed when inmates complaining about prison conditions and President Donald Trump took control of a building and held four guards hostage.
The hostage situation at the maximum security James T. Vaughn Correctional Center in Smyrna lasted nearly 20 hours, the Wilmington News-Journal reports.
One guard was found dead inside the prison when authorities entered the building about 5:30 a.m. Thursday. A female corrections officer was rescued. Two other guards, one with non-life-threatening injuries, were released on Wednesday.
Sergeant Steven Floyd, a 16-year veteran of the Department of Corrections, has been identified as the officer killed.
The situation, which prisoners called a “rebellion,” began Wednesday about 10:30 a.m. It is not known how many prisoners took part in the uprising and hostage-taking. Other prisoners were also being held hostage along with the guards, according to phone calls made from inside the facility to the News-Journal.
Delaware State Police and the FBI were assisting the state Department of Corrections, which oversees the prison.
All other prisons in Delaware were locked down as a precaution, per state policy.
Here’s what we know so far:
1. The Guards Were Taken Hostage in a Building Holding More Than 100 Inmates
Sergeant Richard Bratz said a correction officer called for immediate assistance in “C” Building, which holds more than 100 inmates, about 10:30 a.m. Wednesday.
The facility was placed on lock down and four guards were taken hostage. About 2:30 p.m., one of the guards, who was injured, was released and taken to the hospital. He is expected to survive.
A second guard released later Wednesday. Police initially said five guards had been held, but then reduced that number to four.
Officers breached the building about 5 a.m. Thursday, and rescued a third guard. The fourth guard was found and pronounced dead.
“I’m praying hard for the fallen officer’s family,” Governor John Carney said in a statement. “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,” he continued. “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.”
2. Inmates Called it a ‘Rebellion’ & Cited Donald Trump as a Reason for the Uprising
An inmate called the Wilmington News-Journal about 1 p.m. Wednesday to relay the prisoners’ demands. He called the incident a “rebellion,” the newspaper reports.
You can listen to the call below or here:
“I’m just doing what I’m being told to. I’m just trying to help, ma’am. They just need somebody to hear their demands,” he told the reporter who answered the call.
The caller said the hostage takers want prison reform and better conditions, but the News-Journal reported the demands weren’t clear.
“Improper sentencing orders. Status sheets being wrong. Oppression towards the inmates,” the man said.
A second call was made later Wednesday to the News-Journal by a woman who said her son was being held hostage:
We’re trying to explain the reasons is for doing what we’re doing. 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. We know the institution is going to change for the worse. We got demands that you need to pay attention to, that you need to listen to and you need to let them know. 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 hashtag “VaughnRebellion” was trending on Twitter Wednesday afternoon, with some showing support for the prisoners.
3. Dozens of Police Officers & Vehicles Could Be Seen Surrounding the Prison
Dozens of police officers could be seen outside the prison, gathering in formations, while ambulances stood by. Police helicopters were circling above.
Firefighters were originally called to the building for a report of smoke, but it was not known if fires were set inside.
Police were still standing by outside the building about 5 p.m., six hours after the hostage situation began.
Dan Dunne, who was the national spokesman for the federal Bureau of Prisons in 1991 during a hostage crisis at a prison in Talladega, Alabama, told the News-Journal the release of information is the biggest challenge for prison officials.
He told the newspaper the prisoners inside can hear information through TVs, radios and phones.
Dunne said it’s important for police and hostage negotiators to know what the hostage takers want, and what motivated them to take hostages. He said their demands should be “respected and understood in order to further interact with him.”
During the 10-day 1991 situation, which involved Cuban inmates who were protesting their deportation, Dunne said they used a Miami Herald reporter to help learn the prisoners’ demands.
“At least there is information to discuss,” he said of the phone calls made to The News Journal. “The doors closed with nothing from the hostages can be more dangerous.”
4. The Blood Bank of Delaware Put Out a Call for Donations as a Precaution as Local Hospitals Prepared for the Worst
The Blood Bank of Delaware put out a call for donations of type O blood, but said it was only as a precaution, the Wilmington News-Journal reports.
“A hospital in that area contacted us and asked us to boost their supply,” Rick Thomas, the blood bank’s vice president of blood services, told the newspaper. “They are expecting patients to be brought in.”
The guard hospitalized after being released from the prison by the inmates was beaten, WPVI-TV reports.
The 35-year-old guard was struck numerous times with fists and a mop wringer, the news station reports. He was reported to be awake and alert.
5. A Female Counselor Was Raped & Held Hostage at the Same Prison in 2004
The Vaughn Correctional Center was the site of another hostage situation in 2004, when a female counselor was taken hostage after being raped, The Associated Press reports.
Scott Miller, 45, was later killed by a sharpshooter, ending the standoff after nearly seven hours.
The prison opened in 1971. A large addition was completed in 1996.