July 24, 2018 09:06 AM
Officers at the Stillwater Correctional Facility began a desperate search for Officer Joseph Gomm in building 20 after hearing screams for help come over the radio, according to one of the employees who rushed to help.
That employee spoke to 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS and described running through a maze of rooms and curtains to find the fallen officer who had just been attacked with a hammer by inmate Edward Johnson.
“I’m very angry, I’m very hurt. It didn't have to be this way,” said the employee, who spoke to 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS anonymously due to a strict policy at the Department of Corrections about speaking to the media.
“There was a scream on the radio, like 'I need help' or something of that nature,” he said.
The employee was one of several who rushed to the paint and welding shops on the third floor where Gomm was on patrol all alone.
Although the search lasted for about a minute, the employee said it was a challenge just to find him.
“It felt like a very long time,” the employee told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS. “There’s running up the stairs, running through other shops, busting through plastic curtains. It took forever because there’s nobody in that room to watch his back.”
“Where did you find him?” KSTP Reporter Ryan Raiche asked the officer.
“He was on the floor,” he said.
“What kind of shape was he in?” Raiche asked.
“He was pretty much dead,” he said.
Gomm’s fellow employee said that image of him on the floor will stay with him for the rest of his life – a tragedy he firmly believes could have been prevented.
“Are there any cameras in that building – building 20?” Raiche asked.
“Not in the shops, no,” he said. “Everyone who has asked gets the same answer. It’s not in the budget.”
This is the part of the facility where inmates – who have earned the privilege – work with hammers, screwdrivers, and other tools that can be used as weapons.
Meanwhile, most officers have a can of mace to defend themselves.
“Anything else?” Raiche asked.
“A radio for help,” the employee said. “We need more staff out there and they don’t want to give us more staff. We shouldn’t be walking around there by ourselves when we give the inmates hammers and razor blades and large screwdrivers.”
The Department of Corrections denied a 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS request for an interview with Commissioner Tom Roy.
In an e-mail, a spokesperson said they are mourning the loss of Officer Gomm and that “policy discussions with the commissioner will occur after the funeral.”
Last week, Roy hinted at changes.
“Is this a game changer? It is an element that will certainly color the future,” Roy told reporters. “Everything we do relates to the security of those officers.”
Some officers strongly disagree.
“We need help! We've been saying for years that we need help. Nothing gets past the wall,” the employee said. “No voices get heard past the wall. We all knew this was coming.”
Updated: July 24, 2018 09:06 AM
Created: July 23, 2018 06:16 PM
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