Minnesota prison guard dies after responding to assault
OAK PARK HEIGHTS, Minn. -- A corrections officer at Minnesota Correctional Facility — Oak Park Heights suffered a medical emergency and died Monday afternoon after responding to an inmate assault on another officer, Department of Corrections officials said.
Joseph Parise, 37, died at Regions Hospital in St. Paul. The cause of death was not immediately known.
Parise, who had worked for the DOC for four years, was one of several officers who responded after an inmate assaulted an officer about noon on Monday. Two responding staff were injured during the incident and evaluated and released, DOC officials said.
The prison was placed on lockdown after the assault.
After returning to his post, Parise experienced a medical emergency and was taken to Regions Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
Parise “was a valued member of our corrections family,” said Sarah Fitzgerald, a spokeswoman for the DOC, on Monday. “We offer our heartfelt condolences to Officer Parise’s family, friends, and all of his fellow officers. This is a very difficult day for our Oak Park Heights officers and employees, and our entire department. We are deeply saddened by today’s events.”
Support services will be available for Oak Park Heights employees and all corrections officers and staff, Fitzgerald said.
She said DOC staff is investigating the incident and will provide additional information when available.
The union representing correction officers in the state issued a statement Monday night: “We join in mourning with our correctional brothers and sisters. We grieve with the family of our AFSCME member. We offer our deepest respects to our fallen brother for his courage and his service.”
Corrections Officer Derek Magle, the vice president of AFSCME Local 915 at Oak Park Heights, said Parise was a U.S. Navy veteran who served on the OPH honor guard, and a loving husband and father. Magle described Parise as a very caring man.
“He’s always fun, charismatic, positive,” Magle said. “He always worried about other staff before he worried about himself. When you were having issues, he would reach out to try to help.”
AFSCME said it will be holding a news conference at 2:30 p.m. Tuesday, at its Council 5 offices, 300 Hardman Ave. South, South St. Paul.
Late Monday, Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton also issued a statement: “Officer Joseph Parise was a dedicated state employee, who worked hard every day to protect the safety of his colleagues and our communities. We are deeply saddened by Officer Parise’s sudden and tragic death. On behalf of all Minnesotans, I offer my heartfelt sympathies to his family, friends, and fellow Corrections Officers.”
The attack comes a week after a corrections officer at the prison in Faribault was punched in the face by an inmate and two months after an inmate at the Stillwater prison allegedly used a prison-issued hammer and two improvised knives to kill a corrections officer.
At the maximum-security prison in Oak Park Heights, assaults against officers increased 74 percent to 66 in a 12-month period ending in June. In a single weekend in March, assaults by inmates at the Minnesota Correctional Facility-Oak Park Heights sent 10 employees to the hospital — more injuries than in the previous five years combined.
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.
Johnson has been charged with first-degree intentional murder and first-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 prison-issued 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 an improvised knife to twice stab Gomm in the chest, the complaint states.
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.
After his death, union leaders representing corrections staff called for more prison officers and changes to inmate discipline rules. They have said that state prisons are understaffed and officers are not properly equipped for the job.
Oak Park Heights’ correctional officers have set up a GoFundMe account to help his family: https://www.gofundme.com/officer-joe-parise.