Friday 19 January 2018

Guard killed in prison disturbance 'saved colleagues' lives'

Geoffrey Klopp, president of the Correctional Officers Association of Delaware, speaks about the disturbance at the prison during which a guard was killed (AP Photo/Brian Witte)
Geoffrey Klopp, president of the Correctional Officers Association of Delaware, speaks about the disturbance at the prison during which a guard was killed (AP Photo/Brian Witte)

A prison guard killed during a disturbance at Delaware's largest jail saved his colleagues' lives by warning them that inmates had set a trap, a US corrections union official said.

Union president Geoffrey Klopp said that after prisoners forced Sergeant Steven Floyd into a cupboard, the 47-year-old called out to warn other officers coming to his aid. Mr Klopp said this action "absolutely" saved lives.

"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 and that it was a trap," he said.

Sgt Floyd was found dead early on Thursday after authorities used a digger to smash through a barricade of lockers and end a nearly 20-hour hostage stand-off at the James T Vaughn Correctional Centre.

The guard had worked at the prison for 16 years and is the first corrections officer in Delaware to be killed. Mr Klopp said Sgt Floyd went the "extra mile for any human being he could help".

A second hostage, a female counsellor, was rescued minutes after tactical teams forced their way into a building at the all-male, 2,500-prisoner facility.

Delaware Governor John Carney called the uprising a "torturous" ordeal.

In a statement, he said authorities would hold those responsible to account and "make whatever changes are necessary to ensure nothing like it ever happens again".

Authorities did not immediately explain how Sgt Floyd died. They said inmates used "sharp instruments" to seize Building C and hold the officer hostage along with two other prison guards and a counsellor.

Mr Klopp said inmates staged a fight to lure Sgt Floyd, who radioed for help. They then turned on him, forcing him into the cupboard.

The prisoners eventually released two hostages and got authorities to turn the water back on, saying they needed it for drinking and washing. Instead, they filled up metal 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 Sgt Floyd to make sure he was OK.

The inmate responded that the negotiator would only be able to talk to Sgt Floyd once prisoners were able to talk to the governor. He told the negotiator that they wanted a "formal apology" from Mr Carney for "decades of oppression".

Mr Klopp described Sgt Floyd as a wonderful husband and correctional officer, who last year received the warden's award for outstanding performance.

An Associated Press reporter who visited Sgt Floyd's house earlier on 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 Sgt Floyd.

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

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

"He harassed inmates. He's been doing it for years," he said.

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

It was not immediately clear how many inmates took part in the disturbance. About 120 were in the building when it began, but dozens were let out as the stand-off 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 programmes 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 in Wilmington.

Isaiah McCoy, a former death row inmate at the prison, told the AP that several prisoners who were in Building C called him while the stand-off was under way. He said the inmates told him they are sick of what he called "inhumane" conditions at the facility.

The inmates have filed grievances and tried non-violent protests but failed to get anyone's attention, he said.

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


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