Somber, rainy ceremony for fallen officer Floyd at Vaughn

A plaque honoring corrections officer Steven R. Floyd was on display during Sunday’s memorial service at the James T. Vaughn Correctional Center near Smyrna. (Special To The Delaware State News/Gary Emeigh)

SMYRNA — A memorial event held for correctional officer Lt. Steven Floyd at James T. Vaughn Correctional Center Sunday was buffeted by torrents of rain. Lt. Floyd was killed a year ago in the violent inmate uprising at the prison which took place Feb. 1-2, 2017.

Already a somber occasion, the downpour almost made the speakers at the event unhearable to the gathered crowd of several hundred law enforcement personnel, dignitaries and well-wishers but they soldiered on. The darkened skies with scattered lightning and distant thunder drew comments from the governor as he started his address.

“There’s no doubt there’s a higher power in charge today,” Gov. John Carney said.

At the event, a commemorative wreath that had been dedicated earlier was brought back to the memorial wall in front of the prison to the sonorous music of Delaware State Police’s pipers and drummers. Sunday was chosen for the ceremony because Feb. 11 last year was the day Lt. Floyd’s remains were taken in procession from Delaware State University to Barratt’s Chapel in Frederica.

Gov. Carney lauded both Lt. Floyd’s sacrifice in the line of duty and the continued work of his peers in the Department of Correction.

Gov. John Carney addresses the crowd attending Sunday’s memorial service for corrections officer Lt. Steven R. Floyd.. (Special To The Delaware State News/Gary Emeigh)

“Correctional officers spend every day holding the line between order and chaos,” he said.

“You work every day so that the rest of us are safe. When the most dangerous among us goes to prison, the rest of us have the luxury of breathing a sigh of relief. Your work has just begun. It wasn’t until Lt. Floyd’s death that the rest of us truly understood what it meant to be a correctional officer. To really understand what it means to face danger every day, all day long.”

Also speaking at the occasion, DOC Commissioner Perry Phelps commented on Lt. Floyd’s legacy.

“As we stand here, we are reminded that we should never stop striving to do better,” he said. “When I first met Steven Floyd he was a union representative. He was an outspoken advocate for his fellow officers. Steven cared about giving people a voice and standing up for what’s right and seeing things through until the end. Not only was he an exceptional officer who never wavered in his duties, he was the epitome of a public servant. He was a dedicated husband, father and grandfather.”

DOC Cpl. James Hollis, the keynote speaker, made an entreaty to his fellow officers to carry on Lt. Floyd’s legacy in their daily work,

“We are one family, we carry on Lt. Floyd’s tenacity, his drive and his spirit every day we walk through these doors,” he said. “We can make it and we will make it together, one day at a time.”

A benediction was also offered by chaplain Gus Christo during the event. A large plaque engraved to honor Lt. Floyd was also on display — it will soon be mounted on the memorial wall.

Volunteer firemen from Camden and Frederica stretch a flag across the entrance to the James T. Vaughn Correctional Center for a memorial service honoring corrections Lt Steven R. Floyd who was killed by inmates Feb. 2 (Special To The Delaware State News/Gary Emeigh)

Following the Feb. 1 riot, Lt. Floyd was posthumously awarded the DOC’s Medal of Valor and promoted. At the time, Commissioner 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.

According to an accounting of the events during the uprising, after being taken hostage by inmates, Lt. Floyd sensed they were setting a trap for the Quick Response Team (QRT) officers who were dispatched to come to his aide. 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.

Other memorials

The Delaware State Police mounted patrol approaches for the beginning of the memorial service Sunday honoring correctional officer Steven R. Floyd.. (Special To The Delaware State News/Gary Emeigh)

Lt. Floyd’s name has been memorialized in stone on the Law Enforcement Memorial just south of Legislative Hall in Dover. In mid-April, his name will also be added to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund’s wall in Washington. According to the fund, Lt. Floyd was one of 12 correctional officers who died in the line of duty in the nation in 2017. Lt. Floyd’s space on the wall, along with other law enforcement personnel who died in the line of duty during 2017, will be formally dedicated on May 13 as part of the fund’s annual candlelight vigil.

One of the most poignant tributes to the officer was crafted by inmates at Vaughn in August. The plaque was designed, built, painted and varnished by inmates participating in the prison’s Delaware Correctional Industries program.

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

Reach staff writer Ian Gronau at igronau@newszap.com

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