NASW Member Killed in Tucson

Gabe ZimmermanGabe Zimmerman was shot to death in the Jan. 8 tragedy. Photo: Rep. Gifford's Office

Gabe Zimmerman, a member of NASW’s Arizona Chapter and the director of community outreach for U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, was among the six people killed on Jan. 8 in a shooting spree outside a Tucson supermarket.

NASW’s national office, through a statement, extended condolences to all of the families affected by the tragedy.

The shooting injured an additional 14 people, including Giffords, D-Ariz., who is recovering after a bullet passed through her head.

Zimmerman, 30, was a professional social worker with a master’s degree in social work from Arizona State University. He began working as a congressional aide for Giffords in 2006.

NASW’s statement quoted one of Zimmerman’s colleagues, W. Mark Clark, who is a member of the NASW National Board of Directors.

“Gabe chose work in politics as his social work career path,” he said. “He was passionate and skilled, and will be greatly missed by many people.”

The Arizona NASW Chapter also issued a statement mourning the loss of Zimmerman, who was an active member of the chapter’s Political Action for Candidate Election committee.

Arizona PACE chairperson Colleen Fisher said in the statement, “Gabe just had this engaging smile, and this way of making you feel important. He had a friendly, easygoing way with people and he sincerely cared about everyone, even those who didn’t see eye-to-eye with his views.”

She added, “Despite his youth, he had unusual wisdom. I learned a great deal about politics, community organizing, and strategy by watching his example and through his encouragement. To simply say I will miss him is an understatement.”

Clark said Zimmerman regularly reached out to local behavioral health and social service agencies on behalf of constituents. “We have lost an amazing, gifted social worker and our community and our profession are so much worse off for his passing,” he said.

Many of in the news media took note of Zimmerman’s social work background in their stories about the tragedy.

C.J. Karamargin, Giffords’ spokesperson, told The Arizona Republic that Zimmerman brought compassion to his job.

“Gabe was a master at dealing with people,” Karamargin told the newspaper. “He truly cared about helping people. There were no politics involved in this.”

Federal prosecutors filed several charges against the lone suspect in the shooting, 22-year-old Jared Lee Loughner. At press time, he remained in FBI custody.

The violence in Arizona recalled the need for more protections for social workers.

NASW has supported the federal Teri Zenner Social Work Safety Act, which would establish a grant program to aid safety measures that protect social workers and other professionals who work with at-risk populations.

NASW President James J. Kelly said in a statement, “Social workers like Gabe Zimmerman put themselves in harm’s way in order to help clients, but his death reminds us how much more needs to be done to ensure their safety.”