Helicopters flew overhead and bagpipes played as Stillwater Correctional Officer Joseph Gomm was laid to rest with full honors last month.
More than 3,500 correctional and peace officers from around the nation packed a church on July 26 to honor Gomm and his family. Gomm was killed by an inmate July 18 and became the first correctional officer in Minnesota to die in the line of duty.
The procession from the church to the cemetery stretched nearly nine miles. Adults and children lined the route in front of homes, strip malls, churches and schools, waving American flags and homemade signs. Many saluted or stood with their hands over their hearts. As the funeral procession passed, firefighters and police who were helping block the road stood at attention. So did Minnesota Department of Transportation workers, who barricaded exits to keep the road clear.
Correctional workers from across the state volunteered to fill in at Stillwater to make sure Gomm’s co-workers could attend the funeral.
“I can assure you, from the very bottom of my heart, Joe will never be forgotten,” said the Rev. Martin Shanahan, the chaplain from Minnesota Correctional Facility in Stillwater, who led the service. “This is the time to celebrate the life of an amazing man.”
Gomm was also honored during the AFSCME 43rd International Convention.
Council 5’s Correctional Policy Committee said in a statement that Minnesota’s corrections facilities are chronically short-staffed.
“We will not let Joseph Gomm die in vain. We want to ensure that every person who works in corrections can come home safely, and that we can keep our institutions and communities safe,” the statement read in part.
“After years of asking legislators for enough funding to do our jobs safely, we are demanding bipartisan support, communication and collaboration from the (Department of Corrections) and all levels of state government to provide us with the adequate level of correctional officers, tools, resources and policies we need to do our job and to keep our institutions and the public safe,” according to the statement.