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UPDATE: Standoff as Delaware guards taken hostage by inmates at maximum security prison

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UPDATE: 6 p.m.

A caller to a Delaware newspaper says he is an inmate being held hostage at the James T. Vaughn Correctional Center, where guards have been taken hostage.

The (Wilmington) News Journal on Wednesday posted a recording online of a man who says he was told to contact the media to relay the inmates’ demands. The man seems to be reading from something; he says, “This rebellion is manifested to demand (unintelligible).”

The caller’s message mentions improper sentencing orders and incorrect status sheets. The caller also says maximum security inmates “are merely existing” and need rehabilitation services.

The man says he doesn’t know who’s taken him hostage, as “they’ve got my face covered.” He refused to give his name.

“So what do I do now?” the inmate asks.

The call was ended with a recording, apparently by the company that provides phone services to inmates.

5 p.m.

Delaware State Police say inmates who took five Department of Corrections employees hostage at a maximum-security prison have released one person.

State police spokesman Sgt. Richard Bratz said at a media briefing Wednesday evening that the four other employees remain in the inmates’ custody at James T. Vaughn Correctional Center in Smyrna. He says negotiations are underway.

Bratz says a preliminary investigation suggests the incident began around 10:30 a.m. when a correctional officer inside a building that houses over 100 inmates radioed for immediate assistance. Other officers responded to help, and Bratz says that’s when the five employees were taken hostage.

He says one hostage was released around 2:40 p.m. That person was taken by ambulance to a hospital with injuries that Bratz says aren’t life-threatening.

Bratz says authorities don’t know whether anyone else is injured.

He says authorities are negotiating with the prisoners but didn’t give further details and did not take questions.

 

Earlier:

DOVER, Del. (AP) — Delaware prisons were locked down Wednesday as authorities responded to a hostage situation at the state’s maximum security facility.

Geoffrey Klopp, president of the Correctional Officers Association of Delaware, said the Department of Correction commissioner told him that prison guards had been taken hostage at the James T. Vaughn Correctional Center in Smyrna. In a brief statement, the department said that DOC Response Teams and Delaware State Police were on the scene responding to a hostage situation.

A DOC spokeswoman said only that 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.

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

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.

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.

Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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