STILLWATER, Minn. (WCCO) — The family of the first corrections officer to die in the line of duty in Minnesota is still reeling from his death, nearly one year later. An inmate attacked and killed officer Joe Gomm while he was overseeing a work program at Stillwater Correctional Facility last July 18.
In their first sit down interview, Gomm’s sisters and their husbands spoke about him at length. They pledge to continue his work to ensure the safety of officers.
Behind the uniform was a man that took care of those he loved.
“He was a very, very kind and gentle person,” sister Angela Wood said.
The family of Officer Joe Gomm reflect on the Joe they knew.
“He loved cooking, he and I used to trade recipes back and forth,” sister Audrey Cone said.
And they say he was always good for a prank or goofy face.
“He was fun. Just a lot of fun to be around,” brother-in-law David Wood said.
They routinely played cards and did last July, the last time they gathered as a family, mere days before Joe died.
“We have not played since. And that’s my fault because I can’t bring myself to play it. I still have the piece of paper he kept score on,” Angela Wood said.
The 45-year-old Gomm grew up in Maine, moved to Minnesota in 2001 and started his career as a corrections officer the following year. He worked at Stillwater prison and that’s where he gave his life in the line of duty. Offender Edward Johnson is charged with his murder.
“We look at what happened to Joe as a, essentially a sitting duck situation,” brother-in-law Chris Cone said.
Gomm had expressed concerns about safety to his younger sister. She brushed it off until that fateful day.
“He said every day that I go to work there’s a chance that I will not come home. It only takes a second for something to happen,” Audrey Cone said.
They learned Gomm pushed for a safer work environment at Stillwater. And now they’re picking up where he left off.
“We don’t want any other family to go through what we’re going through,” Audrey Cone said.
“And this would be Joe’s mission. It was Joe’s mission. He was trying desperately to get things changed,” Angela Wood said.
They want cameras to cover the prison. The industry building where Joe was attacked with a hammer didn’t have surveillance. Plus, they’re pushing for more safety improvements and elevated staffing.
“He made the ultimate sacrifice and now it’s up to us to be his voice and get the change,” Audrey Cone said.
An attorney for the family has submitted a claim to the legislature, asking for an appropriation of $3 million to compensate the family for the tragedy. It should be looked at next session.