Hero prison guard saved officers' lives during hostage standoff, union says

Sgt. Steven Floyd, the guard held hostage by a mob of Delaware prison inmates, put his life on the line to save his fellow officers, shouting at them not to rescue him because his captors had set a trap, the head of the state corrections officers' union said Thursday.

Sgt. Steven Floyd.

Sgt. Steven Floyd. (Delaware Dept. of Correction)


"Even in his last moments as the inmates attempted to take over the building, Sgt. Floyd told a couple of lieutenants to get out of the building," union President Geoffrey Klopp said.

Floyd, 47, was found dead early Thursday after police used a backhoe to smash through a barricade of foot lockers filled with water, ending a nearly 20-hour hostage standoff at the all-male, 2,500-prisoner James T. Vaughn Correctional Center. Crews rescued a second hostage, a female counselor, minutes after tactical teams forced their way into the prison's Building C.


Floyd radioed for help Wednesday after inmates staged a fight and then turned on him, forcing him into a closet, Klopp said.

The inmates later released two hostages and got prison officials to turn the water on, saying they needed it for drinking and washing. Instead, they filled up the foot lockers and built barricades.

During negotiations conducted via an officer's walkie-talkie -- which were broadcast online for more than an hour before officials blocked the transmission -- the mediator tried to coax an unidentified inmate into letting him talk to Floyd to make sure he was OK.

The inmate responded that the negotiator would only be able to talk to Floyd once the inmates got to talk to the governor. He told the negotiator the prisoners wanted a "formal apology" from Gov. John Carney for "decades of oppression."

Investigators did not immediately explain how Floyd died. They have said the inmates used "sharp instruments" to seize the building. The unnamed counselor and other hostages spoke to The News Journal of Wilmington over the phone during the standoff, listing the hostage-takers' demands.

Carney called the uprising a "torturous" ordeal. In a statement, he said authorities would hold accountable those responsible and "make whatever changes are necessary to ensure nothing like it ever happens again."

Floyd, a married father and 16-year veteran with the prison, was the first Delaware corrections officer to be killed, according to Klopp.

The union president described Floyd as a wonderful husband and correctional officer who went the "extra mile for any human being he could help." Last year, he received the warden's award for outstanding performance.

An AP reporter who visited Floyd's house earlier Thursday was told the family had been through a lot and did not want to speak.

Dave Dowty, a retired court-transportation worker for the Department of Correction, said he occasionally worked with Floyd.

"I just know he was a pretty good guy. He was quiet, professional," Dowty said in a telephone interview.

But former Vaughn Correctional Center inmate Kenneth Guinn, of Dover, had a low opinion of Floyd.

"He harassed inmates. He's been doing it for years," Guinn said in a telephone interview.

The others guards who were taken hostage were beaten severely by their captors and suffered broken bones, cuts and eye injuries, Klopp said. Authorities said their injuries were not life-threatening.

It wasn't immediately clear how many inmates took part in the uprising. About 120 were in the building when it began, but dozens were let out as the standoff dragged on. Authorities said all inmates who were in the building are being considered suspects.

One inmate told a local newspaper via phone that they were demanding better education and rehabilitation programs and were also upset over President Donald Trump and "all the things that he's doing now."

"We know that the institution is going to change for the worse," he told The News Journal.

Isaiah McCoy, a former death row inmate at the prison, told The Associated Press that several prisoners who were in Building C called him while the standoff was underway. McCoy said the inmates told him they are sick of what he called "inhumane" conditions at the facility.

The inmates have filed grievances and tried nonviolent protests but haven't gotten anyone's attention, McCoy said.

"Now this is world news. This is being broadcast all over the world," said McCoy, who was released from prison last month after being acquitted of all charges in a retrial for a drug-related killing.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.