Stillwater, MN – Minnesota Department of Corrections Officer Joseph Gomm was murdered in the line of duty on Wednesday, after he was attacked by an inmate at the Minnesota Correctional Facility-Stillwater.
Correctional Officer Gomm, who celebrated his 16th anniversary with the agency on Tuesday, was working in the prison facility’s industry building at approximately 1:30 p.m., when inmate Edward Muhammad Johnson allegedly attacked him with a hammer, WCCO reported.
The industry building provides inmates with the “privilege” of taking classes in welding and carpentry, Department of Corrections Commissioner Tom Roy said, according to the Star Tribune.
Sources told the Star Tribune that Johnson also stabbed Correctional Officer Gomm during the attack.
When other correctional officers rushed in to break up the violent assault, other inmates temporarily blocked the door, a source told WCCO.
“The typical officer is issued what’s called pepper spray and radios. And when something bad goes down, the team is summoned and other officers are summoned, and it’s a fairly rapid response,” Commissioner Roy explained.
Correctional Officer Gomm was intubated by prison personnel before he was rushed to a hospital in St. Paul, where he was pronounced dead, the Star Tribune reported.
Officials said the fatal attack was the first time that an inmate had killed a correctional employee at the facility, according to WCCO.
“Officer Gomm was a fine man doing honorable work,” Commissioner Roy said. “We are visiting emotions that we have not visited before.”
“Joseph gave the ultimate sacrifice while working to protect the citizens of Minnesota,” the commissioner added, according to the Star Tribune. “The corrections family is reeling from this incident.”
Johnson, 42, was serving a 29-year sentence for the 2002 murder of his roommate, 22-year-old Brooke Thompson.
He was convicted of stabbing the woman to death as her 5-year-old daughter was nearby.
Johnson, the son of two Chicago police officers, was 12 years old when he saw his father shoot his mother to death. His father then turned the gun on himself, the Star Tribune reported.
In the wake of Correctional Officer Gomm’s death, Johnson was transferred to Oak Park Heights, Minnesota’s only Level 5 maximum-security prison, the Star Tribune reported.
Minnesota State Representative Jack Considine said the attack has caused him to question the means by which the facility screens inmates who are interested in the classes offered at the industrial building.
“You dance a fine line. You want inmates to learn new skills, you want them to be better prepared when they leave the facilities, to lead productive tax-paying lives, but then you end up with an inmate with a hammer in his hand,” Considine told WCCO.
In a statement, Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton said he was “appalled” by the “horrific murder” of Correctional Officer Gomm.
“We are all indebted to the courageous corrections officers and other state employees who risk their safety in Minnesota’s prisons to ensure the safety of their colleagues, our communities, and the inmates themselves,” Dayton said.
Minnesota Law Enforcement Memorial Association President Jeff Beahen said that the correctional officer’s murder served as a grim reminder of the risks unarmed prison personnel encounter in the line of duty.
“This really shows how dangerous the correctional officer job can be,” said Beahen, who has also offered Correctional Officer Gomm’s family a full line-of-duty memorial service.
He is survived by two family members, Commissioner Roy told WCCO.
“Joe had one of the kindest souls, heart, and was dedicated to his job, life, and family,” Correctional Officer Gomm’s brother, Anthony, told KSTP.
In Boston on Thursday, thousands of American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union members held a moment of silence during their international conviction to honor the memory of their fallen colleague, the Pioneer Press reported.
"We are grieving the tragic loss of Brother Joseph Gomm," the union said in a statement, according to KSTP. "Our hearts are heavy for his family, friends, and co-workers."
"We offer our deepest sympathy and unconditional support for his family. We also offer our deepest sympathy to all who were touched by this wonderful man," the statement read. "We ask that everyone cherish their lives every day."
Our thoughts and prayers are with the family of Minnesota Department of Corrections Officer Joseph Gomm, both blood and blue. Thank you for your service.
Correctional Officer Joseph Gomm, your life mattered.