Minnesota prison inmate charged with murder in bludgeoning death of corrections officer

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STILLWATER, Minn.—A Stillwater inmate used a prison-issued hammer and two improvised knives to kill a corrections officer last month, according to murder charges filed Thursday.

Edward Muhammad Johnson, 42, had checked out the hammer from the industry building at Minnesota Correctional Facility-Stillwater before fatally bludgeoning officer Joseph Gomm on July 18, charges say.

Washington County prosecutors charged him Thursday, Aug. 2, with second-degree intentional murder and second-degree assault.

Johnson was already serving a 29-year prison term for the 2002 murder of his girlfriend, Brooke Elizabeth Thompson.

According to the criminal complaint, Johnson used a hammer to beat and kill Gomm on the third floor of a vocational building at the prison, causing "substantial injuries to his head and face." Johnson also used a "homemade knife" to twice stab Gomm in the chest, the complaint states.

After Gomm's death, Johnson was moved to the Minnesota Correctional Facility-Oak Park Heights, where he remains. His first court appearance will be at 10 a.m. Friday.

The shop foreman at the prison told investigators that a prison inmate approached him and told him that Gomm needed help. When the foreman went into the M Shop, he saw Johnson striking Gomm in the head with a hammer, the complaint states.

The foreman ordered Johnson to stop and called for help on his portable radio. He told investigators that Johnson then stopped striking Gomm and swung the hammer at him.

"Fearing for his life, (he) retreated from the shop to a nearby stairwell," the complaint states. "Johnson then shut the door leading from the stairwell into the shop and barricaded it shut."

When correctional officers arrived at the M Shop, they had to go back down the stairs to the second floor and come up a different stairwell and enter through a different door.

Several inmates told investigators they saw Johnson running around shirtless; correctional officers said inmates often remove their shirts when "they are involved in a fight or other aggressive or assaultive conduct," the complaint states. Inmates also reported that Johnson told them that they were going to be "fine," which they interpreted to mean that Johnson did not intend to harm them, according to the complaint.

When the correctional officers confronted Johnson, he put up his hands and surrendered, the complaint states.

"Investigators learned that a hammer had been checked out to Johnson when he reported for work that afternoon," the complaint states. "On the floor, not far from where Officer Gomm was found, investigators located a bloody hammer matching that which had been checked out to Johnson and that which (the foreman) saw Johnson use to repeatedly strike Officer Gomm in the head. Investigators also located two homemade 'knives,' one or both of which were used to stab Officer Gomm."

The complaint does not indicate what precipitated the attack.

Gomm was a 16-year veteran of the Department of Corrections. Thousands of corrections officers from around the U.S. and Canada came to Minnesota to attend his July 26 funeral at North Heights Lutheran Church in Arden Hills.

While in custody at the Hennepin County jail after Thompson's death, Johnson punched a detention deputy in the eye after the deputy told him to stay away from a certain area of the jail, according to court documents.

Johnson pleaded guilty to fourth-degree assault in that case and was sentenced to 13 months in prison.

Incarcerated at Stillwater since 2003, Johnson was scheduled to be released on Dec. 12, 2022.

If convicted on both counts, Johnson could face an additional 47 years in prison.

Washington County Attorney Pete Orput did not return a phone call seeking comment; he said in a news release that he would address the media after Johnson's court appearance.

In Minnesota, a grand-jury indictment is required for any crimes carrying a sentence of life imprisonment.