Young: Remembering US Probation Officer Tom Gahl

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The Indiana on 09/21/2016 by Richard L. Young

Sept. 22, 2016, marks the 30th anniversary of the most tragic day in the history of the Southern District of Indiana. At 8:15 a.m. on Monday, Sept. 22, 1986, United States Probation Officer Thomas E. Gahl went to the Indianapolis home of Michael Wayne Jackson, an offender who had been added to Tom’s list of supervisees just a few days before. After receiving no answer to his knocks at the front door, Tom, an 11-year veteran of the Probation Office, turned around to head back to his car. Jackson then ambushed Tom, who was shot three times at close range and killed. Jackson fled and murdered two other people in the course of a manhunt that lasted 11 days and resulted in his suicide in a Missouri barn.

Tom’s wife, Nancy, and their two sons, Christopher (then 8 years old) and Nicholas (then 4) bore the brunt of Tom’s death, and they were not alone in their grief. Indeed, Tom’s murder left an indelible mark on the entire court family, and in particular on Probation Office staff, both in the Southern District of Indiana and across the country. His sacrifice has resulted in significant changes to how probation officers conduct their business, and Tom’s name has become synonymous with officer safety.