Sgt. Steven R. Floyd was posthumously promoted to lieutenant and awarded the Medal of Valor.
Sgt. Steven R. Floyd is being eulogized by his fellow correction officers as someone who would go out of his way to help anyone.
“We remember a man who gave of himself with unwavering zeal and dedication to his family,” Corrections Officers Association of Delaware President Geoff Klopp said in a statement.
Late on Friday, Delaware State Police spokesman Master Cpl. Gary Fournier said an autopsy undertaken by the Delaware Division of Forensic Science had determined the cause of death was homicide by trauma.
"No further information regarding the autopsy will be released in order to protect the integrity of the active and on-going investigation," he said.
Floyd's remains were returned to Dover Friday afternoon, escorted by a phalanx of motorcyle officers.
Floyd, 47, was found unresponsive and later declared dead following a nearly 20-hour uprising in a building at the James T. Vaughn Correctional Center near Smyrna.
Delaware State Police spokesman Master Cpl. Jeffrey Hale said his division, along with the Department of Correction, has taken on the investigation into Floyd’s death.
“Because of the circumstances surrounding this tragic incident, this investigation is expected to be lengthy and arduous,” Hale said in a press release. “Detectives will be conducting hundreds of interviews and must collect and examine countless pieces of physical and video evidence.”
The entire building where the standoff took place is being treated as a crime scene, he added.
Hale said updates on the investigation will be provided as circumstances warrant.
At a ceremony held Friday night graduating a new class of correctional officers, Floyd was posthumously promoted to the rank of lieutenant. His son, Steven Floyd Jr. accepted a department Medal of Valor in his father's name.
The ceremony was dedicated in Floyd's memory.
Breaking through barriers
According to information provided by the DOC, Floyd had 16 years of service, all at the Vaughn Center, beginning in May 2000. He rose through the ranks as a correctional officer and was promoted to sergeant in 2002.
The standoff at the prison began around 10:23 a.m. Wednesday, Feb. 1 with a radioed call about a problem in a medium security building on the grounds. The facility is dubbed Building C.
Four correctional officers, including Floyd, were taken hostage. It also was learned afterward that three maintenance workers had hidden in the basement area but were able to escape during the standoff.
The entire prison was put on lockdown as other officers and troopers from the Delaware State Police. DelDOT, the Wilmington Police Department, the FBI and several EMS and fire departments were called in. Over the day, the rebelling prisoners released one correctional officer at around 2:30 and another before 8 p.m. A total of 46 inmates in the building also were released during the ordeal.
The DOC, DSP and FBI negotiated with the inmates throughout the night, with some of those talks being broadcast over the Internet, Secretary of Safety and Homeland Security Robert Coupe said. Those were later cut off, he added.
All the time, officials were working on a plan to rescue the hostages, Coupe said.
The standoff continued overnight until just after 5 a.m. Thursday, Feb. 2 when a backhoe was used to break through a water-filled barricade of footlockers the prisoners had erected, allowing police to get inside. A female counselor was rescued unharmed and sent to a local hospital for observation.
Police found Floyd inside the building when they broke in, but the officer succumbed to unspecified injuries and was pronounced dead at 5:29 a.m. The building was declared secured at 5:32 a.m.
Today, all mourn
In an emotional press conference afterward, Gov. John Carney, barely two weeks into his term, tearfully lamented Floyd’s death.
"It's a very sad day across the state of Delaware with the loss of one of our brave correctional officers," the governor said during a press conference at Delaware State Police Troop 2 in Glasgow. "My prayers all day yesterday was that this event would end with a different result. But it didn't. So today all of us mourn the family of Sgt. Floyd.”
Carney later ordered flags to be flown at half-staff at state buildings in Floyd’s honor.
Perry Phelps, commissioner for the Delaware Department of Correction, said there were 120 inmates in Building C at the time of the insurrection and that all are considered suspects in Floyd’s death.
According to the DOC, Floyd had been commended twice for perfect attendance and in 2016 had received the Warden’s Award for outstanding performance.
“Sgt. Floyd remained steadfast and never wavered in his duties as a sworn law enforcement officer,” according to Klopp.
Bruce A. Rogers, legal counsel for the COAD, said those duties included representing the “blue shirts,” i.e., the corrections officers in the prison, in disputes with upper management, i.e., the “white shirts.”
“In my dealings with his as a shop steward, he would go to almost any lengths to take care of his brothers and sisters in the union,” Rogers said. “When he’d walk into a meeting with the white shirts, most of them would roll their eyes because they knew he was coming with a legitimate concern and that he was well prepared.”
Floyd was deeply involved in representing his fellow officers in dealing with the prison system’s chronic shortage of personnel, shortages that would require them to work long overtime shifts.
Floyd himself often volunteered to work those shifts, Klopp said. In his statement, Klopp implied staffing shortages and the state’s refusal to address them were partially responsible for the officer’s death.
“Make no mistake about it, Sgt. Floyd’s death was preventable,” Klopp said. “We told our state leaders this was going to happen. Sgt. Floyd told them this was going to happen and still, no meaningful changes were made other than to maintain the status quo.”
Floyd’s dedication saved the lives of those officers running to help at the beginning of the standoff, Klopp said.
“On the tragic day of his death, and while under immediate duress, Sgt. Floyd gave notice to his fellow correctional officers that they were about to walk into a trap and ultimately saved them from near certain death.,” he said.
City of Dover Public Affairs Officer Kay Sass released a statement Thursday afternoon on behalf of Mayor Robin Christiansen and the city council. Floyd and his family lived in north Dover.
“It is imperative that we as a community show our support to the Floyd family and convey our heartfelt sympathy to his immediate family, to the Department of Correction family and to all who knew him,” she said.
Delaware’s Congressional delegation issued a statement offering their support to Floyd’s family and calling Thursday “a day of mourning for all of Delaware.”
C. Linwood Jackson, president of the NAACP Delaware State Conference, said his group stands ready to work with the DOC to resolve problems at the prison, which he said were based on reports of “overcrowding, understaffed shifts and excessive use of solitary confinement” as a basis for the uprising.
The COAD has established a Go Fund Me site for Floyd and the officers injured during the takeover. It may be found at https://www.gofundme.com/loss-of-sgt-steven-floyd-coad.
According to the site, the goal is to raise $30,000.
A fundraising effort also is planned in Smyrna from Feb. 8 to Feb. 10; visit https://tinyurl.com/Floyd-Fundraiser, for more information.