In the middle of a busy prison, a fight seemingly breaks out between two inmates. While radioing for help, prison guard Steven Floyd is bundled into a closet and taken hostage – the first steps in a siege that will last for two days. But as his fellow officers rush to his aid, Floyd apparently screams out a warning that everything is not as it seems.
The James T. Vaughn Correctional Center is located in New Castle County, near the town of Smyrna in northern Delaware. Opened in 1971, it is home to around 2,600 adult males and is the largest facility of its kind in the state.
The center houses a mixture of minimum, medium and maximum-security prisoners. Some of them have access to radios, books and magazines. However, others are awaiting the death penalty and are only allowed outside their cells for one hour every day.
In 2004, the center made the news when a prison counselor was attacked and held hostage for seven hours. Since then, there have been rumblings of unrest from within the facility, with inmates complaining of being forced to live in poor conditions.
On February 1, 2017, these troubles apparently came to a head. At around 10:30 a.m., corrections officer Floyd was on duty in Building C, a section of the facility’s maximum security wing that houses more than 120 inmates.
Suddenly, an altercation between two prisoners seemed to break out, prompting Floyd to get on his radio and request assistance. However, the fight had actually been staged. Inmates then used the distraction to overpower Floyd and trap him in a nearby closet.
Officers responding to Floyd’s call for help soon arrived on the scene. Surprisingly, however, they were also overpowered by the inmates, who allegedly used weapons they had crafted by hand. Before anyone in charge really knew what was happening, four members of staff had been taken hostage.
While the hostages – three male guards and one female counselor – were trapped inside the building, the center went into lockdown. Authorities soon gathered outside, attempting to begin negotiations with the inmates.
According to police spokesman Richard Bratz, one hostage was released at around 2:30 p.m. that day. Despite being injured, his condition was not considered to be life-threatening, although he was taken to a nearby hospital for treatment.
Using one of the guards’ radios, the inmates then negotiated with a mediator, arranging the release of another hostage at around 8:00 p.m. In return, they asked the authorities to switch the water back on. Officials complied, but soon realized that they had made a mistake.
Instead of needing the water to drink and wash, as they had claimed, the inmates used it to fill metal footlockers. Once the lockers were weighed down with water, they used them to build barricades designed to keep out the authorities.
At some point that evening, 41 inmates who had been held in the building were allowed to leave. That left a count of 82 inmates still inside – and police had absolutely no idea which ones were responsible for the siege.
Shockingly, the siege of the prison continued well into the next day. Finally, at around 5:30 a.m. on February 2, police officers were able to force their way into the building. Happily, they found a third guard and the female counselor alive. They quickly took them to safety.
Tragically, however, there was no such happy ending for Floyd. Later that same day, Department of Correction Commissioner Perry Phelps announced that the officer had sadly been found dead inside the building.
Although authorities are still unclear as to exactly how Floyd died, witnesses have claimed that he was killed by his captors while imprisoned in the closet. In fact, some have reported that Floyd’s last actions were impressively heroic.
Apparently, when Floyd’s fellow officers attempted to rescue him, he warned them off – suspecting that the inmates were planning a trap. If this account of events is true, it’s likely that Floyd saved some of his colleagues’ lives.
As Floyd’s family mourns the loss of a husband and father, authorities are attempting to establish exactly what happened inside the James T. Vaughn Correctional Center. After the incident, it emerged that The News Journal, a local Delaware newspaper, had received two phone calls from inside the prison while the siege was taking place.
Apparently, one call was relayed by a woman whose son was inside the prison. During the call, a male voice listed several grievances, such as poor education within the center and abusive treatment from prison guards. Additionally, the person also named United States President Donald Trump as a reason behind the rebellion.
“Donald Trump. Everything that he did. All the things that he’s doing now,” the caller complained, according to The News Journal. “We know that the institution is going to change for the worse.”
Currently, each one of the 120 inmates of Building C are being considered as suspects in Floyd’s murder, although to date no arrests have been made. As employees and inmates both try and return to normal, there can be no doubt that the atmosphere inside the center is forever changed. “One thing’s for sure,” lieutenant Joe Simon told the Mail Online, “things will never be the same.”