Edward Muhammad Johnson, 44, pleaded guilty Friday to first-degree murder for killing Joseph Gomm. A judge immediately sentenced him under a state law that makes a life sentence mandatory for first-degree murder of a law enforcement officer.
Johnson entered his plea via video conference from the maximum-security prison at Oak Park Heights. He said he had checked out a hammer on July 18, 2018, from the metal shop at the Stillwater prison, where he was incarcerated, and hit Gomm in the head, “twice, I believe.”
Johnson said he meant to kill Gomm, who was supervising inmates in the metal shop. Gomm, 45, had been a corrections officer for 16 years.
Gomm’s death led to a monthlong lockdown of the Stillwater prison and the resignation of three officers. At least 10 others took leaves. His death also prompted guards to demand more security cameras and staffing in vocational workshops.
Minnesota Department of Corrections Commissioner Paul Schnell called the plea and sentencing “bittersweet.”
“Though it brings a fitting end to the judicial process, it does not relieve the very real pain and loss experienced by Joe’s immediate family, friends, and co-workers,” Schnell said in a statement. “Officer Gomm was an honorable public servant not because of how he died, but because of the way he lived – his memory and sacrifice should be forever honored.”
Johnson was serving a 29-year sentence for the 2002 stabbing of his then-roommate, and his life sentence will run consecutive to that, Washington County District Judge Ellen Maas said.
Gomm’s sister, Audrey Cone, and her husband, Chris Cone, told the Star Tribune they were relieved that Johnson decided to plead guilty.
“At least we can close this part of the book and try to move forward," Audrey Cone said. "We’re never going to get Joe back. That’s really the only thing that would ever fix this.”
The Cones said they plan to sue the Department of Corrections.