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1 Hostage Has Died As Standoff Ends At Delaware State Prison

A hostage situation at the James T. Vaughn Correctional Center in Smyrna, Del., is over, nearly 24 hours after it began. Four prison staff members were initially taken hostage; one of them was declared dead early Thursday, after police secured the facility.

Two of the hostages had been released Wednesday, as officials sought to negotiate with inmates. As Delaware Public Media's James Dawson reports for NPR's Newscast unit, state police entered the building at the center of the standoff around 5 a.m. Thursday.

"They found one employee alert and responsive," Dawson reports. "They took that employee to a hospital for evaluation. And the second one was unresponsive and later declared dead."

We'll report more details as state officials speak about the case.

During the standoff, inmates contacted local media to say they were angry about their treatment at the prison — and that they were concerned it would get worse under President Trump.

The takeover began about 10:30 Wednesday morning when prisoners overpowered four correctional employees in building C, which houses more than 100 inmates.

One hostage, who suffered non-life threatening injuries, was released in the afternoon and another hostage, whose condition is unknown, was released hours later.

Robert Coupe, Delaware's Homeland Security secretary, said officials were willing to listen to the prisoners.

"If the inmates want to talk about conditions, privileges, those types of things, yes that dialogue can take place, but none of that starts until we have the safe return of our staff," Coupe says.

The Associated Press reports:

"Inmates reached out to in Wilmington in two phone calls to explain their actions and make demands. Prisoners funneled the calls to the paper with the help of one inmate's fiancee and another person's mother. The mother told the paper her son was among the hostages.

"In that call, an inmate said their reasons 'for doing what we're doing' included 'Donald Trump. Everything that he did. All the things that he's doing now. We know that the institution is going to change for the worse.'

"That caller said education for prisoners was the inmates' priority. They also said they want effective rehabilitation for all prisoners and information about how money is allocated to prisons."

Earlier in the day, more than two dozen prisoners were released by hostage takers, but it's unknown if they were being held against their will.

The correctional center in Smyrna is about 15 miles north of the state capital Dover and houses a mix of minimum and medium-to-high security inmates.

All state prisons in Delaware were locked down in the wake of the standoff.

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Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.
Doreen McCallister