By Jennifer Mayerle

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The family of the first corrections officer to die in the line of duty says they’re getting the runaround from the state.

An inmate attacked Officer Joe Gomm at Stillwater Prison in 2018. Now, a bill to compensate his family for the tragedy has stalled.

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WCCO’s Jennifer Mayerle spoke with them about their frustration and how this is preventing healing.

It’s been a year and a half since an inmate used a hammer to attack corrections officer Joe Gomm but the pain of his death is still fresh.

“We can’t move forward and nobody understands, you know. We can’t, just because he’s buried does not mean that it’s over and done with,” sister Angie Wood said.

Distraught relatives hoped they’d find some closure as they await the criminal trial. Instead of suing the state, a legislator introduced a bill to compensate the family.

“Now we’re to this year’s session and now we have met other roadblocks and we’re told it’s not going to happen,” sister Audrey Cone said.

Gomm’s relatives say they’re confused, angry and frustrated.

“They offer us this as an appeasement and then they take it away and it’s a gut punch. I don’t understand,” brother-in-law Chris Cone said.

Neither does the representative who authored the bill.

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“It looks to me like it’s a legislative quagmire,” DFL Representative John Lesch said.

Lesch expected the House would at least hear the bill that would appropriate $3 million from the general fund for Gomm’s heirs.

“It’s high profile. It’s a state institution. It’s state liability. We should follow through and not make them have to go through court to get what’s their due,” Lesch said.

The family’s attorney says they’re prepared to sue but believes the legislature should take action.

“You’ve got to do the right thing, do things substantively to show you care about correctional officers and this is a move in the right step,” attorney Mike Padden said.

Caught in the middle is a family seeking healing.

“We’ll do whatever we need to do to get justice for my brother,” Audrey Cone said.

The claims subcommittee could also compensate the family. But its co-chairs say they can’t right now because the corrections department appealed an OSHA violation related to Gomm’s death. The officer’s family could still sue the state.

Nick Kimball, Department of Corrections spokesperson gave WCCO this statement:

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The loss of Officer Joseph Gomm is still deeply felt across the department. We understand legislative members have had conversations with his family about a variety of issues related to his death. The Department of Corrections does not play a role in determining what bills particular legislators propose. The department remains committed to honoring both the legacy of Officer Gomm’s service and supporting his family.

Jennifer Mayerle