9:10 A.M. — A prison worker has been found dead after a nearly 20-hour standoff inside a maximum security prison in Smyrna, Delaware.
A statement released by the Department of Corrections says around 5 a.m., Delaware State Police breached the building where four prison workers were being held hostage since Wednesday morning.
Two prison workers were released on Wednesday night as the intense negotiations continued to unfold through the night.
According to the DOC, by Thursday morning, one of the remaining prison workers, who they identified as a man, was found dead.
The other worker, also employed by the DOC, was identified as a woman. She was hospitalized and is now alert and talking.
Video from the scene shows dozens of inmates lying face down in the prison yard, guarded and being led away by prison guards.
SMYRNA, Del. (AP) — Delaware security officers continue negotiations efforts with inmates inside a state prison after they took four correctional workers hostage Wednesday night. Two have been released and two remain held by the prisoners, as of early Thursday morning.
Inmates at the James T. Vaughn Correctional Center in Smyrna say via a local newspaper that concerns about their treatment and the leadership of the United States had prompted their actions Wednesday. Negotiators worked well into the night, but could not reach an agreement to release the last two hostages.
The hostage situation drew dozens of officers and law enforcement vehicles and prompted a statewide lockdown of all prisons. One hostage was released Wednesday afternoon and another was released hours later.
A preliminary investigation suggests the disturbance began about 10:30 a.m. when a correctional officer inside Building C, which houses more than 100 inmates, radioed for immediate assistance, Delaware State Police spokesman Sgt. Richard Bratz says. Other officers responded to help, and the employees were taken hostage, he says.
Bratz initially said five employees were taken hostage, but authorities at a later news conference said the number had been revised to four after one person thought to be among the hostages was found in another part of the prison.
Robert Coupe, secretary of the Delaware Department of Safety and Homeland Security, says 27 inmates also had left the building over the course of the evening.
Authorities don’t know “the dynamics of the takeover” or whether those inmates had been held against their will, Coupe says.
One of the freed employees was taken to a hospital with injuries that were not life-threatening, authorities say. The condition of the second wasn’t immediately available.
Earlier in the day, inmates reached out to The News Journal in Wilmington in two phone calls to explain their actions and make demands. Prisoners funneled the calls to the paper with the help of one inmate’s fiancee and another person’s mother. The mother told the paper that her son was among the hostages.
In that call, an inmate said their reasons “for doing what we’re doing” included “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.”
That caller said education for prisoners was the inmates’ priority. They also said they want effective rehabilitation for all prisoners and information about how money is allocated to prisons.
Coupe says authorities had been communicating with the hostage-takers via radio. He also notes inmates in Building C have access to television and could be watching the news conference live.
“We’d like to tell them we want to resolve this peacefully,” he said.
Coupe declines to comment when asked about the phone calls to The News Journal but says a dialogue about issues at the prison could happen later.
“Once this matter is resolved safely, then that will be the time to talk, if the inmates want to talk about conditions, privileges, those types of things,” he says.
Delaware Gov. John Carney spoke briefly, saying he had talked with the hostages’ families.
“As you can imagine, it’s been very difficult for them as well,” the new Democratic governor says.
According to the department’s website, the prison is Delaware’s largest correctional facility for men, with about 2,500 inmates. It houses minimum, medium and maximum security inmates, and also houses Kent County detainees awaiting trial.
It employs 1,500 corrections officers, according to Bruce Rogers, counsel for the Correctional Officers Association of Delaware.