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Federal Family Supports Probation Officer’s Survivors

Nancy Gahl, whose husband died in the line of duty.

Nancy Gahl at a ceremony honoring fallen probation employees. Her husband, probation officer Thomas E. Gahl, was killed by one of his clients 30 years ago.

Nancy Gahl lost her “soul mate” when her husband, probation officer Thomas E. Gahl, was shot and killed by one of his clients 30 years ago. But after that terrible loss, she says she gained a family in the federal community that came to her aid.

Nancy recalled her experiences in September while attending a ceremony honoring fallen probation employees at the Federal Probation and Pretrial Academy in Charleston, South Carolina. Thomas Gahl was killed on Sept. 22, 1986, as he paid a routine home visit to a client armed with a shotgun. Gahl was just 38 years old, and left behind Nancy and two young sons.

She got through those difficult days with the support of Gahl’s fellow probation officers, judges and other courthouse employees in Indianapolis in Indiana’s Southern District. They helped with college tuition for the two boys, Chris and Nick Gahl, contributing over $60,000. Each year, they send Nancy flowers on the anniversary of her husband’s death.

“From the very start, they came into our lives, and we got to know them,” she said. “They prayed for us, they contributed to the college fund (established) for our boys. We are very blessed to have that support. We feel like we are part of the federal family, even after 30 years.”

She said she is also pleased by training protocols at the academy that were developed in the wake of her husband’s death to prepare new officers to respond quickly in similar circumstances. “If his death has helped to promote funding for this state-of-the-art facility, with top-notch instructors and technology to support them, then that’s a good thing. He would have enjoyed and loved being here,” she said at the academy.

It’s rare for federal probation officers to be killed in the line of duty. U.S. probation clerk Marie Christopher Curtis was killed in her office by a parolee in 1966 and probation officer Matt DeLozier died in 1935 after his gun accidentally discharged. Probation Officer Charles Venz died in a 1979 car accident while conducting fieldwork.

Related Topics: Probation and Pretrial Services