Inmate files federal lawsuit over Vaughn Center uprising


Donald Parkell, an inmate who filed a federal lawsuit over the uprising at James T. Vaughn Correctional Center on Feb. 1, said no prisoners resisted the rescuers but “… officers injured nearly every man, hostages included.” (File Photo/Jon Lloyd)

WILMINGTON — A 39-year-old inmate described in a federal lawsuit filed Tuesday his version of a nearly 19-hour standoff at James T. Vaughn Correctional Center that left one correctional officer dead.

Donald Parkell claimed in a 14-page handwritten filing that he was held hostage during the siege and no more than 10 prisoners were behind the takeover of Building C that began Feb. 1.

According to Parkell, three correctional officers, including the late Lt. Steven Floyd Sr., were “savagely beaten and restrained” by some of the inmate-captors. The officers’ heads were covered by hoods or bags, according to the lawsuit, which also states that “The captors wore hoods or similar disguises to prevent identification.”

A Building C counselor “was also taken hostage albeit without violence,” Parkell wrote. A hood was placed over her head as well and she was taken to a cell and eventually “insulated” with three inmates “not involved or in any way in the know of the premeditated attack.”

Parkell claims in the lawsuit that he is one of those three inmates, that at least two of them stayed with the counselor at all times and that they removed her hood when attackers were not in the vicinity.

“Hooded attackers periodically checked the cell to make sure she was still there,” Parkell claimed.

“At various points in the night, attackers would point their weapons at the 3 inmates as if to use them, but the 3 inmates creatively distracted them.”

Parkell, who is incarcerated at Vaughn according to an online prison registry, has filed a series of actions against the Delaware Department of Correction in the past.

Spokeswoman Jayme Gravell said Thursday afternoon, “The DOC will not comment on pending or ongoing litigation.”

Parkell: Counselor protected

Parkell, who is seeking, among other requests, mental health services to be provided, inmate property to be returned, and any ongoing destruction or disposal of property to cease, outlined the prison uprising in his lawsuit.

He said two attackers allegedly threatened the three inmates early in the crisis and said if “they wanted to protect (the counselor) then they would be held responsible for anything that might happen to her, with an attack on the 3 inmates meant to kill them for trying to be heroic.”

The lawsuit described fires lit throughout the facility’s area “flooding the building with smoke and flames.”

A fire alarm was triggered when attackers lit a blaze near a building sprinkler system, Parkell said, causing “an incessant series of beeping and blaring.

“The open sprinkler filled the entire building with water.”

According to the lawsuit, water flooding from the sprinkler and from shower stalls was used to fill locker boxes that barricaded doors.

Parkell said in the lawsuit, “There are no cameras set or installed in C-Building. There are, however, wireless routers installed for internet access entertainment for the guards.”

He said the three cell-bound inmates allegedly discussed options including attempted escape and “overtaking the attackers,” having the counselor fake a heart attack, and signaling rescuers outside. “The attackers grew suspicious somehow and forced the 3 and (counselor) into another cell,” Parkell claimed. “Efforts continued to signal rescuers.”

Parkell said he volunteered to remove water from the tiers. “The monotony of the labor intensive process was a welcome distraction,” he said.

During the siege, the prisoner claimed “Separate groups of hostages banded together to cook food. This food was shared amongst the hostages. The attackers ate alone.”

The lawsuit claimed hostages began packing their belongings on top of their bed racks and “At the time the rescuers came, every inmate’s property was packed safely in boxes and bags.”

Surrender time set

Attackers announced that they would release all remaining hostages and surrender at 6 a.m., according to Parkell, but rescuers entered shortly after 5 a.m. on Feb. 2 “using a backhoe, concussion grenades, and overwhelming numbers.”

Parkell and two inmates claimed to tell rescuers of the counselor’s whereabouts and she “was pulled by unknown officers to safety.”

According to the lawsuit, the counselor yelled to the officers that the three inmates had protected her during the ordeal, and then an arriving sergeant “told officers ‘Don’t hurt these 3.

“Make sure everyone knows not to hurt them. As the 3 were escorted to medical, nearly every officer and nurse thanked them one by one.”

Parkell described attackers and other hostages allegedly being “pummeled.”

He wrote in the lawsuit: “Sneakers were ripped off their feet and thrown in a pile without recording whose were whose. Eyeglasses were punched off faces and broken underfoot.

“Some inmates were stripped of various clothing. The officers injured nearly every man, hostages included.

“The officers kicked, stomped and used knees on the inmates after they had all peacefully complied.”

Parkell claimed that no inmates resisted the officers.

The prisoner claimed that the DOC violated rights by disposing of property. Also, Parkell alleged, inmates were exposed to cruel and unusual punishments “by directing medical and mental health staff to not respond to sick call requests ‘unless it’s life or death.”

Also, Parkell alleged, inmates were denied previously scheduled religious diets and their right to freely exercise religion were violated.


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