As inmates forced Delaware corrections Sgt. Steven Floyd into a closet, he tried to warn his colleagues rushing into the building.
“Even in his last moments, as the inmates attempted to take over of the building, Sgt. Floyd told a couple of the lieutenants to get out of the building, that it was a trap,” Correctional Officers Association of Delaware president Geoff Klopp said, recounting Floyd’s final hours, CNN affiliate WPVI reported.
Klopp said the sergeant’s warning on Wednesday morning “saved lives.”
Floyd, 47, was found unresponsive and pronounced dead minutes before authorities secured the scene at James T. Vaughn Correctional Center in Smyrna.
Floyd was hailed as a hero — a role he likely didn’t intend to play that morning — and remembered for the role he relished playing — a loving family man, an adoring grandfather.
Loved his family ‘with all his heart’
“Sgt. Steven Floyd Sr. was a father, a grandfather, a loving husband,” an emotional Klopp said Thursday. “He worked overtime three and four times a week to put his kids through college .. anything his kids or his wife wanted or his grandkids. He loved them with all of his heart.”
Floyd was working his regular 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. shift when the 19-hour hostage standoff began about 10:30 a.m. Wednesday. Authorities said a corrections officer radioed for help with a major disturbance involving a staff member in a building that houses about 120 inmates.
Klopp said Floyd was forced into the closet before the inmates took control of the building. That’s when he warned his colleagues as he heard them entering the building.
Officials didn’t say how Floyd conveyed the distress call.
The all-male facility, the state’s largest, was placed on lockdown and surrounded by police. By the time backup arrived, four corrections employees, including a female counselor, had been taken hostage.
Prisoners demanded better conditions
Police were told the inmates had “sharp instruments,” according to Robert Coupe, secretary of Delaware’s Department of Safety and Homeland Security. It was unclear what weapons the inmates had.
Around 2:30 p.m. on Wednesday, one officer was released and taken to a hospital for non-life-threatening injuries. More than five hours later, a second officer was let go, leaving two hostages.
The guards who were taken hostage were beaten severely by their captors and suffered broken bones, cuts and an eye injury, Klopp said.
As negotiation dragged on, prisoners made several demands, including better conditions at the prison, education programs and improved training for prison guards, according to radio traffic picked up by CNN reporters.
Floyd was ‘steadfast’ in his duties
About 5 a.m., Thursday, authorities used a state corrections department backhoe to breach the building and enter the prison, according to Coupe.
Minutes later, police found a female corrections employee. Couple said “there were inmates that actually shielded this victim.” She was not injured and taken to a hospital for an evaluation.
At a press conference, Perry Phelps, the state corrections commissioner, announced Floyd’s death in a somber tone. He spoke haltingly.
“The fourth hostage, Sgt. Steven Floyd was found unresponsive, and at [5:29 a.m.] Sergeant Steven Floyd, who was with the department for 16 years, was pronounced dead.”
Authorities did not provide a cause of death for Floyd; however, the head of the guards union said Floyd was forced into a closet and killed by his captors, WPVI reports. An autopsy his pending.
Floyd spent his entire career at the correctional facility, which houses about 2,500 inmates about 90 miles from Washington. Floyd was promoted to sergeant in 2002, according to a release from the state department of correction.
The department said Floyd remained “steadfast and never wavered in his duties as sworn law enforcement officer,” as the hostage crisis unfolded.
Family and colleagues ‘crushed’
Gov. John Carney ordered flags to be flown at half-staff in Floyd’s honor.
Klopp said Floyd was the first Delaware corrections officer to die in the line of duty.
Floyd’s family could not be reached on Thursday. Klopp said both the family and the 600 officers who work at the facility were “crushed.”
Klopp recounted a conversation he had with Floyd’s widow. She him that about 12:20 a.m, she looked at the front door as she sat on the couch.
“That’s what time Steve came through the door every night after he worked an overtime shift,” Klopp said. “She couldn’t believe that he wasn’t coming through the door.”