Video of Minnesota corrections officer murder released; family seeks settlement
The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension helped investigate the beating death of Minnesota Corrections Officer, Joseph Gomm, in 2018. Gomm was murdered at the Minnesota Correctional Facility-Stillwater by then-inmate Edward Johnson.
5 EYEWITNESS NEWS obtained a copy of the entire BCA investigation done in conjunction with Washington County law enforcement and Bayport Police.
The file contains video of the crime scene taken the day Gomm was killed and includes transcripts and audio of interviews conducted by investigators. In those interviews, some corrections officers and inmates told investigators there were unsafe conditions at the prison before Gomm’s death.
Inmate James Swanson told investigators Gomm was working in the metals shop by himself with dozens of inmates and, according to Swanson, was not in an ideal security situation.
“The metals shop supervisor wasn’t there that day and we only had one officer out there, and that should never happen anyway,” Swanson said. "That should never happen and there should always be two officers at all times in a situation like that up there.”
Corrections Officer Joshua Turner pointed out to investigators the metals shop and other portions of the “industry area” were not equipped with security cameras either.
“Obviously, we have no cameras on that side of industry, which is just silly,” Turner said. "The other side is the metals section, and they have zero cameras in there as well.”
Gomm’s family has negotiated a proposed $3 million dollar settlement with the state, but state lawmakers have yet to approve the appropriation with less than two weeks left in this year’s legislative session at the state Capitol.
Audrey Cone, Gomm’s sister, said she believes the investigative file indicates there were inadequate security measures in place at the prison and that her brother’s death could have been avoided.
“It could have easily been prevented and Joe didn’t have to die that day,” Cone said. “Joe was the first corrections officer murdered while on the job in the state of Minnesota, and nobody wants to take responsibility for it.”
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The Minnesota Department of Corrections issued the following statement:
“Since the death of Officer Joe Gomm, substantial changes have occurred at Stillwater. Changes include a comprehensive look facility-wide at operations, eliminating double-bunking, improving staffing patterns and levels in industry areas, revision and updating of the tool control policy, improving work area layouts, along with updates and additions to camera systems. Staff no longer work alone with the incarcerated population. When an individual staff members passes through an area, staff have visuals of each other or are monitored on camera. Security personnel in the industry shops do rounds on a two person basis.
"In addition, Minnesota has a law regarding line of duty death benefits for corrections officers under MS 299A.44. The law provides a mechanism for eligible families to receive a separate cash line of duty death benefit in addition to workers compensation. The legislature also created an education benefit for surviving spouses and children under MS299A.45 (note that Officer Gomm did not have a spouse or children so this didn’t apply to him). The Gomm family has received a line of duty death benefit payment from the state of Minnesota.
"There is also a federal line of duty cash payment death benefit for the surviving family. More information here. The Gomm family has received a line of duty death benefit payment from the federal government.
"In addition to the state and federal public safety officer line of duty death benefit payment, Officer Gomm’s estate accepted compensation under the Workers Compensation Act.
- Minnesota legislature has already passed into law a line of duty death benefit for corrections officers under MS 299A.44 and put a mechanism in for eligible families to benefit from it. The Gomm family has received these benefits.
- The legislature has created the avenues in MS 299A.44 – specific to line of duty death for professionals like peace officers and corrections officers. The Workers Comp Act and the public safety officer death benefit options are the exclusive remedies by MN law.
- Giving one family a direct appropriation might seem unfair to others who did not receive direct appropriations – even other corrections officers, like Officer Parise, who was died in the line of duty. A direct appropriation also sets a precedent that the legislature has to consider closely.
- Federal law also recognizes the sacrifices made by those killed in the line of duty and offers benefits to the family of corrections officers killed in the line of duty.
- The Minnesota Workers Compensation Act (WCA) provides the exclusive remedy for a state employee seeking compensation from the state for personal injuries or death arising out of and in the course of employment.
"The murder of Officer Joe Gomm remains the darkest day in the history of the Minnesota Department of Corrections. Joe Gomm is the first and only officer to be killed in the line of duty in the agency’s history. Edward Johnson, the man who killed Officer Gomm, plead guilty to First Degree Murder in October of 2020 and was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole."