Inmate gets life sentence for 2018 murder of Minn. corrections officer

Edward Muhammad Johnson acknowledged that he meant to kill Officer Joseph Gomm


By Dan Browning
Star Tribune

MINNEAPOLIS — An inmate already incarcerated for murder was sentenced to life in prison Friday in the 2018 killing of prison guard Joseph B. Gomm.

Edward Muhammad Johnson, 44, pleaded guilty to first-degree murder for killing Gomm, 45, the first such death of an on-duty Minnesota prison guard. Johnson said he checked out a hammer on July 18, 2018, from the metal shop at the prison in Stillwater, where he was being held, and used it to hit Gomm in the head, "twice, I believe."

Officer Joseph Gomm was killed in Stillwater's industry building, which houses a welding shop and carpentry programs.
Officer Joseph Gomm was killed in Stillwater's industry building, which houses a welding shop and carpentry programs. (Photo/ODMP)

Washington County District Judge Ellen L. Maas sentenced him immediately after his guilty plea because the life term is mandatory under state law.

"Well, it was a long time coming to this resolution and I'm hoping that the family can find some closure in this," Maas said.

Gomm's death prompted a monthlong lockdown of the 104-year-old prison — often referred to as the DOC's "flagship institution" — and led three officers to resign. At least 10 also took a leave of absence. Corrections officers banded together to demand additional security cameras and increased staffing in the prison's vocational workshops like the one where Gomm was killed.

Johnson, now incarcerated at the maximum-security prison in Oak Park Heights, acknowledged that he meant to kill Gomm.

Michael Padden, a lawyer representing Gomm's family members, declined to make a statement at the hearing, which was conducted by Zoom video conferencing.

Johnson also declined to make a statement beyond answering questions required to enter his guilty plea. His only concern with the plea agreement was that he get an ophthalmologist to examine his one good eye. Johnson said it's supposed to be examined annually, but that hasn't happened recently because he's been held in isolation.

As part of his plea agreement, the state agreed to a request from Johnson that it recommend he be confined in a prison outside of Minnesota, though there are no guarantees that will happen, said his attorney, Virginia Anne Murphrey. She said she understood that his eye would be examined but had no mechanism to guarantee that.

"Let's move forward," Johnson said.

Prosecutor Nicholas Hydukovich said no restitution was requested. Gomm's family was awarded some money from Crime Victims Restitution Board for some of its expenses and waived any restitution from Johnson, he said.

Maas said his life sentence must run consecutively to his sentence for second-degree murder in the 2003 stabbing of his roommate at the time, 22-year-old paralegal Brooke Thompson, while her 5-year-old daughter was nearby.

Johnson's parents, both Chicago police officers, died in a 1988 murder-suicide. Johnson was 12 when he watched his father shoot his mother eight times in their home shortly after she filed for divorce, according to the Chicago Tribune.

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©2020 the Star Tribune (Minneapolis)

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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