ST. PAUL, Minn. (KMSP) - As friends and family of Corrections Officer Joseph Gomm gather to honor him, those touched by his life are remembering him. Among them are workers from the University of Minnesota Raptor Center who he reached out to just hours before his death.
“He knew it was a kestrel baby because another one had been brought in from the same nest the week before,” said Sue Wenker, a Raptor Center worker.
Wenker took the call last Tuesday from Officer Gomm at Stillwater prison. He described to her how maintenance staff noticed a nest blown off one of the prison buildings the previous week. Another corrections officer already brought one five-week-old female kestrel to the Raptor Center.
That afternoon Gomm brought in the second on his way home after work. Talking to Gomm over the phone and then in person, staff at the Raptor Center could tell how much Gomm cared.
“He was excited about getting it here and wanted to make sure it went back out if it could,” said Wenker. “He didn’t realize they were just fledging, meaning they were just leaving the nest."
"We appreciate his help with the birds and so caring of him to bring in the birds and take the time to bring the birds here and took the time to even find us," said Nancie Klebba, Raptor Center volunteer coordinator.
The next day, Officer Gomm sent an email at 11:57 a.m., inquiring how the chicks were doing. But Officer Gomm never got their response. According to the Department of Corrections, he was killed by an inmate an hour and half later. Watching the news that night, Wenker immediately made the connection.
“It hit me hard because I had just talked to him on the phone and he was such a nice guy to work with,” said Wenker.
Those closer to Gomm wrote in his obituary, "Joe enjoyed cooking, playing online video games and had a love of animals. His quick, witty demeanor will be missed by all."
Wenker still can't go back and re-read Gomm's email; her heart breaks over how precious all life can be.
“Like I do for the birds every day, some make it some don’t, but that’s not how you are supposed to for a police man,” she said.
Wednesday morning, the chicks were both returned to the Stillwater correctional facility. Several corrections officers wanted to make sure the chicks get home before Gomm's funeral on Thursday.