One of the prison employees held hostage at James T. Vaughn Correctional Center in Smyrna, Delaware, has been pronounced dead, according to a Thursday statement from the Department of Corrections. The other prison official was rescued safely, and she is being treated at a local hospital, the statement said.[Original story published at 5:09 a.m. ET]
Two prison employees are still being held hostage at a Delaware correctional facility nearly a day after they were captured by inmates.
Authorities have been trying to negotiate their release from the James T. Vaughn Correctional Center in Smyrna.
On Wednesday, inmates there initially took four employees hostage and released two of them later that day, according to Perry Phelps, the state corrections commissioner.
The all-men’s facility, which is the largest in the state, and was placed on lockdown and surrounded by police as authorities work to free the remaining pair.
“We’ve put all the resources that we have to bear to get our employees out,” said Gov. John Carney in a news conference.
Hostages taken after call for help
The incident began shortly after 10:30 a.m. Wednesday when a corrections officer radioed for help in a building that houses more than 100 inmates.
It’s unclear what triggered the call for assistance.
When backup arrived to the building, four corrections employees were taken hostage.
Robert Coupe, Secretary of Delaware’s Department of Safety and Homeland Security said he couldn’t speculate on the inmates’ motives.
At first, authorities said five staffers had been taken hostage. But they later found that one of the staff members believed to have been taken, was actually at another part of the building, Coupe said.
Two officers are released
Throughout the day, negotiations wore on.
“We are doing everything we can to ensure the safety of everyone involved and using all of our available resources,” State Police spokesman Sgt. Richard Bratz said four hours into the standoff.
Around 2:30 p.m., one corrections officer was released and taken to a hospital with non-life threatening injuries, officials said.
Shortly before 8 p.m., a second officer was let go, Coupe said. A helicopter with CNN-affiliate WPVI showed footage of the second hostage being wheeled out on a stretcher. That person is undergoing a health evaluation, Coupe said.
Along with the two hostages, 27 inmates who had been in the same building were released and back in custody. But officials couldn’t say whether those inmates also had been held against their will.
Message to the hostage takers
As officials spoke at a news conference Wednesday evening, Coupe said the inmates had TV access and could be watching.
When asked what his message was to the inmates, Coupe said: “We would like to tell them that we want to resolve this peacefully.”
The correctional facility is about 90 miles east of Washington, and houses 2,500 inmates who are in minimum, medium and maximum security, including those on death row.
The governor said the main focus is “the safety of our correctional employees.” Carney noted that he had spoken with the hostages’ families.
“As you can imagine, it’s been very difficult for them as well,” he said.
Geoff Klopp, president of the Correctional Officers Association of Delaware, said officers are praying for their members.