Oak Park Heights prison officer dies after responding to inmate assault

Image 1 of 2

Photo Courtesy: AFSCME Council 5

An officer at Minnesota Correctional Facility-Oak Park Heights died from a medical emergency after he responded to help another officer who was assaulted by an inmate, according to the Minnesota Department of Corrections.

Oak Park Heights Officer Joseph Parise, 37, passed away at Regions Hospital on Monday.

Around noon Monday, an inmate assaulted a corrections officer at the Oak Park Heights prison. According to AFSCME Council 5, the union for the prison staff, the inmate was "repeatedly" punching the corrections officer. Other corrections staff, including Parise, responded to the assault. Two responding staffers were also injured in the incident. They were later treated and released.

After the incident, Parise returned to his post and experienced a medical emergency. He was taken to Regions Hospital. Parise had worked for the Dept. of Corrections for four years. He was also a U.S. Navy veteran, husband and father, according to AFSCME. The cause of death has not been determined yet.

“He’s always fun, charismatic, positive,” said Corrections Officer Derek Magle, the vice president of AFSCME Local 915 at Oak Park Heights in a statement. “He always worried about other staff before he worried about himself. When you were having issues, he would reach out to try to help.”

"We offer our heartfelt condolences to Officer Parise’s family, friends, and all of his fellow officers," said a statement in part from the Department of Corrections. "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."  

The Oak Park Heights prison is under lockdown. The incident is still under investigation.

Governor Mark Dayton released the following 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.”

A GoFundMe page for Parise's family has been set up at this link.

In July, Corrections Officer Joseph Gomm died after an inmate attack at the Stillwater prison. The inmate, Edward Johnson, was moved to Oak Park Heights prison. According to Corrections Officer Jeff Vars, the president of Local 915, Parise was planning to transfer to the Stillwater prison to provide more help to staff at that facility, following the death of Corrections Officer Joe Gomm.

Since the deadly attack, correctional officers across Minnesota have been calling for more staffing and safer conditions for prison workers. Earlier this month, staffers made a stand to not work in the area of Stillwater prison where Gomm was attacked.

Just a week ago, four officers were injured in an assault at the Faribault prison

According to Department of Corrections records, this year there have been 37 staff assault cases, some of which listed multiple staff victims. In all, 50 staff members have been listed as victims. This compares to last year which saw 47 staff assault cases, with 59 staff members listed as victims.