BAYPORT — Hundreds of people gathered on the lawn outside of the Minnesota Corrections Facility-Stillwater on Thursday, July 18, at a ceremony to honor and remember fallen corrections officer Joseph Gomm on the first anniversary of his death.
Gomm, 45, was beaten to death by an inmate while on duty at the Stillwater prison on July 18, 2018. Originally from Maine, Gomm moved to Minnesota in 2001 and served as a corrections officer at the Stillwater facility for 16 years.
Rev. Martin Shanahan, the chaplain at the Stillwater corrections facility, addressed the crowd of roughly 400. He assured Gomm's family and friends that Gomm's death has not been in vain. “He continues to transform us,” Shanahan said. “His death has been the catalyst of change, the agent of revitalization, and the bearer of new visions.”
Shanahan told Gomm's family members that he intended to uphold the promise he made to them last year when he officiated his funeral.
“I made a commitment and a promise to you and to our brother Joe,” he said. “Joe will never, ever be forgotten, and neither will any of you.”
A boulder bearing a bronze plaque emblazoned with Gomm's name now sits across the street from the Stillwater corrections facility. During the ceremony, Gomm's family and friends placed red roses and white carnations into a large piece of wood shaped like a badge that bore the words: “You'll never be forgotten.”
Edward Johnson, 43, has been charged with Gomm's murder. At the time, he was serving a 29-year sentence for killing his girlfriend in 2002. Johnson's trial was initially scheduled for June but has been delayed, as attorneys on both sides attempt to determine if he is mentally fit to stand trial.
At the July 18 ceremony, Shanahan emphasized that Gomm's death was due to the cruelty of one inmate alone.
“Joe was killed by one man, not 1,600 men. I have seen a growing realization that those entrusted to our custody and care are hurting just as much as we,” he said. “I have had many offenders over this year ask if there was any way they could let everyone know how sorry they are, and how much they are hurting because of Joe's death, and how much of a loss it was for them.”
“The opposite of love, my friends, is not hate … The opposite of love is fear,” Shanahan added. “I trust, and I hope, that we will continue to step forward in love and not in hate.”
Gomm's sisters, Angela Wood, of Blaine, and Audrey Cone, of St. Francis, said the ceremony was a fitting tribute to their brother.
“I'm very overwhelmed and trying to keep it together,” Wood said. “He is dearly, dearly missed by everybody.”
“He touched a lot of people's hearts, even people who never knew him,” Cone added. “His legacy and memory will live on.”
Elizabeth Callen is a staff writer and reporter for the Lowdown. She can be reached at 651-407-1229 or firstname.lastname@example.org.