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Tom Gahl, 25 Years Later


On September 22, 1986, United States Probation Officer Thomas E. Gahl was killed in the line of duty in Indianapolis, Indiana. It was a Monday morning, not unlike any other Monday morning Tom had experienced in his previous 11 years as a probation officer. That morning, Tom was visiting the home of parolee Michael Wayne Jackson. Tom arrived at the home at approximately 8:15. After not being able to contact Jackson, Tom turned to leave the residence, but Jackson ambushed Tom and shot him three times with a sawed off shotgun. An 11 day manhunt ensued, ending with Jackson taking his own life in Wright City, Missouri.

Christopher (then 8) and Nicholas (then 4). However, this story did not end with Tom's murder. The Gahl family, as well as the United States Probation and Pretrial Services family, had to continue living. Chris is now 33, Nick is now 29. They both have their own families and successful careers. Nancy has never re-married. They all still live in the Indianapolis. The United States Probation and Pretrial Services family is 25 years older.

Just like the Gahl family, our probation and pretrial family has changed in the last 25 years. Our system has never been as "pro-officer" safety as it is today. Please remember, even the most routine of circumstances has the potential of danger. Every day, officers do the same activity Tom Gahl was doing on September 22, 1986.

It is incumbent upon each and every one of us to remember Tom and his family. In reality, Tom is a member of each of our families.

The hero is one who kindles a great light in the world, who sets up blazing torches in the dark streets of life for men to see by. The saint is the man who walks through the dark paths of the world, himself a light.
- Felix Adler