Officials: Guards held hostage by inmates at Delaware prison

Vaughn Correctional Center near Smyrna, Del., remains on lockdown following a disturbance on Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2017. Geoffrey Klopp, president of the Correctional Officers Association of Delaware, said he had been told by the Department of Correction commissioner that prison guards had been taken hostage at the James T. Vaughn Correctional Center in Smyrna. (Suchat Pederson/The Wilmington News-Journal via AP)

SMYRNA, Del. (AP) — At least four guards and a counselor were taken hostage by inmates Wednesday inside a Delaware prison, according to a union attorney, and all the state’s prisons were put on lockdown as police swarmed the facility.

Bruce Rogers, counsel for the Correctional Officers Association of Delaware, told The Associated Press that inmates had taken control of one building at the James T. Vaughn Correctional Center. Injuries to both officers and inmates were reported, he said.

In a brief statement, the Department of Corrections said DOC Response Teams and Delaware State Police were on the scene responding to a hostage situation.

A DOC spokeswoman said an emergency situation was reported at the Smyrna prison late Wednesday morning. The facility was placed on lockdown, as were all prisons in the state per DOC policy. Spokeswoman Jayme Gravell provided few details but described the situation as an isolated incident, adding that there was no threat to the public.

Rogers said he’d been briefed on the situation by the union president, who was talking to officials at the scene.

He described the building under inmate control as housing between 120-150 inmates. The population is considered medium to maximum security, he said.

There has been very little communication between inmates and those on the outside, and no demands have been communicated to the union, according to Rogers.

Video from above the prison shows uniformed officers gathered in two groups along fences near an entrance to the prison. Later, video showed several people surrounding a stretcher and running as they pushed it across the compound. It wasn’t clear if a person was on the stretcher. People could be seen standing near a set of doors with an empty stretcher and wheelchair.

Gravell said firefighters were called to the scene after reports of smoke and were being held on standby.

According to the department’s website, the prison is Delaware’s largest correctional facility for men, housing about 2,500 inmates. It houses minimum, medium, and maximum security inmates, and also houses Kent County detainees awaiting trial. It is also the site of the state’s death row and where executions were carried out. The prison opened in 1971.

In 2004, an inmate raped a counselor and took her hostage for nearly seven hours at the Smyrna prison, according to an Associated Press report at the time. A department sharpshooter later shot and killed 45-year-old Scott Miller, according to the report, ending the standoff.

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Associated Press writer Sarah Rankin in Richmond, Virginia, contributed to this report.

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