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Oak Park Heights corrections officer’s death is ruled a homicide

October 26, 2018 GMT

The death of Oak Park Heights corrections officer Joe Parise, who suffered a medical emergency last month shortly after helping a fellow officer under attack, has been ruled a homicide.

Parise, 37, of Forest Lake, died Sept. 24 at Regions Hospital in St. Paul of acute coronary syndrome, with a secondary cause of ischemic heart disease, according to an MPR report that cited the Ramsey County Medical Examiners Office. The office did not immediately return calls from the Star Tribune.

The four-year veteran had sprinted across the sprawling prison complex to help restrain an inmate who reportedly punched a colleague 15 times in the face. Less than 10 minutes after returning to his station, he collapsed.

On Friday, the Ramsey County medical examiners chief investigator Lori Hedican told MPR that the agency had classified Parises death as a homicide after weighing the autopsy results against evidence from the Department of Corrections.

It was the second on-duty death of a corrections officer in as many months. Joseph Gomm, a 45-year-old officer at Stillwater prison, was bludgeoned to death with a hammer in July. Both men were buried with full honors.

Edward Muhammad Johnson, an inmate serving time for homicide, faces two counts of first-degree murder and one count of second-degree assault in connection with Gomms fatal assault.

The homicide ruling in Parises case comes just hours after another attack at the Oak Park Heights maximum-security prison that led to hospitalized two officers.

The incident occurred as officers were transporting an offender from the gym around 8:45 p.m. Thursday night, said DOC spokeswoman Sarah Fitzgerald. At that point, a second prisoner got involved and two officers suffered injuries in the scuffle.

They were evaluated at a local hospital and released. The inmates were placed in restrictive housing as the prison went on lockdown.

This incident will be fully investigated, and the offenders responsible will be held accountable under the law, Fitzgerald said. Our highest priority is the safety of our corrections officers and all individuals at our facilities.

Liz Sawyer 612-673-4648