Grieving our AFSCME brother

7-25-2018

Thousands of correctional officers and others in law enforcement are expected Thursday for the funeral of our fallen correctional brother, Joseph Gomm. 

They’ll line the streets to pay honor to Gomm, who had just celebrated his 16th year of serving at the Minnesota Correctional Facility in Stillwater when he was killed by an inmate on July 18.

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Visitation is from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesday and 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. Thursday, followed by his funeral service at 11 a.m., all at North Heights Lutheran Church, 1700 W. HWY 96, Arden Hills. Interment is immediately afterward at Roselawn Cemetery in Roseville. 

On Friday, the U.S. Honor Flag will be raised over MCF-Stillwater in a private ceremony for correctional workers and loved ones. The flag will be posted for 16 hours, one hour for every year that Gomm served, to cover all three shifts.

The Honor Flag has flown in thousands of funerals for officers killed in the line of duty in the U.S., Afghanistan and Iraq. It has flown over Ground Zero and aboard the Space Shuttle Atlantis.

“We are grieving the tragic loss of Brother Joseph Gomm,” said AFSCME Council 5. “Our hearts are heavy for his family, friends and coworkers. We offer our deepest sympathy and unconditional support to all who were touched by this wonderful man. We ask that everyone cherish their lives every day.”

“He was an everyday worker, a very good union person and he showed up at work every day,” said John C. Hillyard, president of AFSCME Council 5’s Corrections Policy Committee. 

“This is a murder that will never have to happen again,” Hillyard told a crowd of thousands at the AFSCME International Convention in Boston last week, shortly after Gomm’s death. “As soon as our brother is laid to rest, we will fight for more staffing in his name. We will fight so we never have to see this again, in his name.

“And I want to tell everybody, cherish the moments you have with the people you’ve got today because tomorrow is not promised,” he said. “Please stand up and hug the person besides you or the person at the table because this may be the last time you’re able to do that.”

As thousands of people spontaneously started hugging, AFSCME International president Lee Saunders told the crowd, “This is a solemn reminder of the risks law enforcement officers face every day to protect us and to protect our communities. We owe them our thanks as well as a real commitment to keeping them safe on the job. We’re going to do that, right?”

“Right!” the crowd replied.

In a statement, AFSCME Council 5 pointed out the ongoing problem with short staffing in our prisons.

“We have lobbied the Legislature for increased staffing and funding to help alleviate these shortages only to have them voted down by politicians who do not support the safety and security of our correctional staff. We will continue to advocate for more staff to ensure the safety of our members and the public.”

Since Correctional Officer Gomm died, tributes have poured in from public officials and the public.

“I am appalled at the horrific murder of Officer Joseph Gomm,” Gov. Mark Dayton said. “On behalf of all Minnesotans, I offer my deepest sympathies to Officer Gomm’s family, friends and fellow corrections officers. We pray that they find strength and solace at this very difficult time.

“We are all indebted to the courageous corrections officers and other state employees, who risk their safety in Minnesota's prisons to ensure the safety of their colleagues, our communities, and the inmates themselves. Minnesotans are grateful for your selfless service, and we mourn with you the loss of your colleague and friend.”

“The corrections family is reeling from this incident," Minnesota Corrections Commissioner Tom Roy said. "We are not accustomed to losing staff. Officer Gomm was a fine man doing honorable work."

Tributes are filling social media pages and the guestbook for Gomm’s obituary:

  • “I worked with Joe at MCF/Stillwater. He was a great guy and an even better Officer. I am so sorry for your loss.”
  • “I spent 10 years working Segregation MCF-SCL. The only way a man goes 16 years in general population he must have two things. Those two things are a heart of gold and rejection of keeping a grudge. Every day is a new day.”
  • “My heart goes out to you... as part of the correction family in Lino Lakes I'm saddened to have lost a part of our family. With deepest sympathy know he will be missed greatly.”
  • “I would like to extend my condolences to your family.  Thank you for the service.  Without COs like you our world would be a much worse place.”

Gomm’s family asks that memorials be made to the Joseph Gomm Memorial Fund C/O BMO Harris Bank, 1520 - 109th Ave. NE., Blaine, MN 55449. 

You can pay tribute and leave messages for his family at www.holcombhenryboom.com/guestbook/joseph-gomm.