C Building Vaughn Prison

They were assaulted by inmates, handcuffed, and tossed into a dark closet together, as they listened to the screams of another officer who was being assaulted in a nearby closet.

Officers Winslow Smith and Joshua Wilkinson took the stand Tuesday in the second trial of four inmates who are charged with murder and other offenses in connection with the incident 20 months ago at the James T. Vaughn Correctional Center in Smyrna.

Smith said he rotated among prison buildings and was assigned to Building C that morning. He told jurors as he opened the door to let inmates in from outdoor recreation, he was punched in the face and struck with an object from behind.

After being handcuffed, he was thrown into a closet with Wilkinson. Wilkinson testified that he was swarmed by a group of 8 to 12 inmates.

"I remember hearing Sgt. Floyd screaming," Smith said. Also at one point, he heard the inmates tell him: "If you look at us, we'll kill you."

After a few hours passed, Smith was released by the inmates. 

For Wilkinson, it was to be only his second full day in building C. He said during the ordeal in the closet, inmates would assault them and toss flaming objects at them, which he extinguished by rolling over.

Wilkinson was later allowed to leave; neither he nor Smith have returned to work since the riot.  Both said they still suffer post-traumatic stress and from the effects of concussion.

Wilkinson and Smith were unable to identify any of their attackers because many of them wore masks.

Wilkinson's memory would also come into play under defense cross-examination. He was asked about a transcript of an interview with police on the day of the incident in which he said some inmates had issues with how Floyd treated them.

Wilkinson did not have a recollection of making those statements.

"Some guards have an ego problem, yes," he said in response to a question. Wilkinson added he never heard Floyd yell at anybody.

The day began with a description from a Delaware State Police investigator about ransacked rooms and cells and a smoky smell in Building C following the riot.

"Every room, every tier, every cell looked liked it was ransacked," Cpl. Roger Cresto said Tuesday in the second day of the trial in Superior Court.

Cresto described the methodology used in the collection of evidence, items of which were introduced and described. They included shanks fashioned out of toothbrushes, razor blades and--in one case--a shard of glass. Burnt knit caps were also found, at least one of which had two holes cut in it, apparently for seeing. 

The significance of the items, which also included plastic mop wringer parts and handles, fire extinguishers, and a foot locker, will likely come up during the trial of Jarreau Ayers, Deric Forney, Roman Shankaras and Dwayne Staats. They are the first of 16 inmates to be tried on murder offenses. Two other inmates face charges in connection with the riot, but have not been charged with murder.

Ayers raised objections over the items of evidence, saying that many were not analyzed for DNA. His objection was overruled. Ayers and Staats are representing themselves.

During Monday's opening statements, the state indicated that correctional officer Lt. Steven Floyd died of blunt force trauma injuries and stab wounds. He was attacked in a closet and found dead in several inches of water.

Reporter - Anchor

Mark Fowser is a veteran journalist in Delaware.