Tribute to a fallen officer: Remembering Lt. Floyd, killed one year ago in prison riot

Lt. Steven R. Floyd Sr. name engraved on the Delaware Law Enforcement Memorial at Legislative Mall in Dover. Delaware State News/Marc Clery

SMYRNA — One year ago inmates allegedly murdered correctional officer Lt. Steven Floyd during a riot at James T. Vaughn Correctional Center near Smyrna.

Eighteen inmates have since been charged with perpetrating the crime with 16 of them accused of murdering Lt. Floyd.

In the wake of the riot, Lt. Floyd’s estate, family and several other survivors from the incident sued the state. The lawsuit settled out-of-court in December for $7.55 million — many believe it to be the largest state-paid settlement in Delaware’s 230 year history.

DCI inmate Rory Brokenbrough uses a fine piece of sandpaper on a custom wood plaque to honor slain guard Lt. Steven Floyd in the wood working area at James T. Vaughn . Delaware State News/Marc Clery

Lt. Floyd’s name has been memorialized in stone on the Law Enforcement Memorial just south of Legislative Hall in Dover. A commemorative plaque is also set to be mounted on the memorial wall in front of Vaughn prison in the coming days. According to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund,

Lt. Floyd, 47, was one of 12 correctional officers who died in the line of duty in the nation in 2017. His name will be added to their wall in Washington, D.C., sometime in mid-April.

Lt. Floyd, along with the other names added in 2017, will be formally dedicated on May 13th as part of the fund’s annual Candlelight Vigil.

One of the most poignant tributes to the officer was crafted by inmates at Vaughn prison in August. While the Delaware State News was reporting on Delaware Correctional Industries (DCI), a program focused on teaching prisoners job skills, inmate Rory Brokenbrough was at work on the memorial plaque. It was his job to sand off the rough edges.

“It’s special to me, and I’m glad I have a chance to be part of it,” Brokenbrough said at the time. “Nothing like that should ever happen to anyone. Getting to do this, though, has meaning for us though, because we care, we have hearts too. I’m going to try to do this tribute up as nice as I possibly can.”

The plaque was designed, built, painted and varnished by inmates working in the prison wood shop.

Another inmate, Michael Caldarazzo, was responsible for laying out the 3D design and cutting the plaque on DCI’s new computer-driven wood engraving machine.

“It was an honor to do it,” he said at the time. “I don’t have a problem with officers, I have a lot of respect for them. Even though I’ve been in here for nine years, I never knew Lt. Floyd personally. No one should ever lose their life like that.”

Now completed, the plaque hangs in the entryway of the Correctional Officers Association of Delaware (COAD) headquarters in Dover with Lt. Floyd’s picture inside.

Who was Lt. Floyd?

In the year since the prison riot, much attention has been paid to what happened, rather than to whom it happened. According to COAD president Geoff Klopp, Lt. Floyd was a hardworking, dedicated family man.

“He was a shop steward with the union for at least ten years and was very involved with everything we did,” Mr. Klopp said. “But more than that, he was all about serving the community and taking care of his family. He was always trying to help other people. He worked hard on the job, and worked hard at home making sure everyone he loved was well taken care of.”

According to his obituary, Steven Romell Floyd was born in Lewes to Sharon Floyd and Steven Harmon. He was raised in Millsboro and attended Sussex Central Senior High School.

After graduation he joined the U.S. Army where he rose to the rank of sergeant first class. According to a summary in a court filing, Lt. Floyd served as an armored tank crewman and was a veteran of Operation Desert Storm.

Lt. Floyd married Saundra in 1988. They have three children, Candyss White, Steven Floyd, Jr. and Chyvante Floyd and two grandsons.

After his military career, he moved back to Delaware and began working for the Department of Correction. He worked 16 years, his entire career, as a correctional officer at Vaughn prison. His obituary states that during his time with the DOC, he received many accolades including the Warden’s Award for Outstanding Performance in 2016.

Sixth District Kent County Levy Court Commissioner, Glen Howell, remembers working alongside Lt. Floyd fondly.

“I worked with him at C Building (site of Feb. 1 riot) on a regular basis — he was a hard worker and a good guy,” said Mr. Howell. “He was a dang good guy to have on your team too because I can tell you that he wasn’t scared of anyone. Fearless.”

Now retired, Mr. Howell had worked as a DOC inmate teacher for 29 years. Remarkably, Mr. Howell’s final day of work at his C Building post was Jan. 31, 2017 — a day before the uprising took place. Leaving that evening, Mr. Howell recalls that Lt. Floyd was the officer who let him out of the building.

“I was already an emotional wreck on the 31st anyway because I was retiring after 29 years,” said Mr. Howell. “The next day, by mid-morning, I found out all the prisons were on lock-down and my eyes were glued to the TV. I was watching the news and they showed aerial footage of C Building — I’d been there only the day before. It was a tragedy.”

In 1995, Lt. Floyd joined the PHA Masonic Order through Temple Lodge #8 in Milford. He served as Temple Lodge #8’s Worshipful Master for 5 years. From there he went on to become a member of G. Oscar Carrington Consistory #93, Rock of Ages Chapter #15 Order of Eastern Star, Mount Moriah #5 Holy Royal Arch Masons and Suakim Temple #60. In 2007, he became a charter member of Fez Temple #231 in Dover. The temple’s founder, CB Cloud, said Lt. Floyd was an indispensable part of the organization.

“He was president of the past potentate council, he helped me found the organization and personally headed up three of our largest programs,” Mr. Cloud said.

He said Lt. Floyd rallied the Fez Temple’s approximately 60 members together to donate a popcorn machine for children at Dover’s Urban Music Festival.
“He knew some people who started the festival and got our temple involved with it,” Mr. Cloud said. “Steve would help collect all kinds of pencils, book bags, school supplies and other things and hand them out to kids at the festival — he’d organize that every year for us.”

Mr. Cloud said Lt. Floyd was also responsible for the temple’s Vietnam veteran recognition luncheon and for spearheading fundraising for the American Diabetes Association.

Despite having to work a large amount of overtime at the prison, Lt. Floyd felt it was important to give as much as he could to the community, Mr. Cloud said.

“He was an incredibly charitable person,” he said. “In addition to lifting up his family, he was always lifting up our community. He believed in taking care of people, and that reflected back on everything he did and on our organization.”

Chuckling, Mr. Cloud said that among the members of the temple, Lt. Floyd carried the reputation of being a “snazzy” dresser.

“He was a sharp dresser, and we all knew it,” said Mr. Cloud. “We named him our wardrobe director. Whenever we’d go visit a neighboring organization in another state or go to an event, we’d always have him go around shopping and pick us out suits or ensembles to coordinate on.”

Following the Feb. 1 riot, Lt. Floyd was posthumously awarded the DOC’s Medal of Valor and promoted. At the time, DOC Commissioner Perry Phelps said Lt. Floyd’s heroic actions prevented additional hostages from being taken, and that his bravery brought great credit to himself, the department, and the state of Delaware.

Court documents from the lawsuit against the state claim that after being taken hostage by inmates, Lt. Floyd suspected they were setting a trap for the Quick Response Team (QRT) officers that were dispatched to site of the initial assault in C Building. As the QRT team entered the building to help, they and the other hostages heard Lt. Floyd shout out from a closet he’d been shoved into:

“It’s a trap! It’s a trap! Go back! Get out of the building!”

The move may have saved the responding officers’ lives.

Mr. Cloud said the Fez Temple members were deeply saddened when Lt. Floyd was killed, but they weren’t surprised to hear that his final act was one of compassion and courage.

“No, it didn’t surprise us in the least,” he said. “Honestly, we would have been surprised if he didn’t make that sacrifice. He was just that kind of guy.”

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