Dimebag Darrell, guitarist for Damageplan and Pantera, was killed during a shooting spree at a Columbus, Ohio, nightclub Wednesday night. He was 38.
Darrell, real name Darrell Abbott, was among the five people killed during the incident. Also dead are the gunman, 25-year-old Nathan Gale of nearby Marysville, Ohio; Damageplan bodyguard Jeff Thompson, 40; fan Nathan Bray, 23; and Erin Halk, 29, who worked at the club. Gale also wounded three people.
Damageplan had just begun their first song in front of approximately 250 people at Alrosa Villa when the gunman jumped onstage, made a comment about Pantera, and began firing at close range into Darrell’s body, shooting him several times before opening fire on the crowd (see ” ‘Dimebag’ Darrell Abbott: A Larger-Than-Life Guitarist And Human Being” ).
A patrol officer nearby, James Niggemeyer, heard the call of shots fired at 10:18 p.m. and by 10:20 p.m. had snuck inside the club through a back door, according to public information officer Sergeant Brent Mull. After entering, Niggemeyer, who had no backup, confronted the gunman onstage, where he observed one victim and Gale holding a hostage by the neck.
“The officer was able to strategically gun this guy down before he was able to kill his hostage, and it appeared that he was about to kill his hostage,” Mull said at a press conference Thursday (December 9). “The suspect had the hostage in a headlock situation and had his firearm out shooting, and it’s believed he was about to take his gun to the hostage.”
But the hostage wriggled out of the way slightly, Mull said, and the officer was able to kill the shooter with a single shotgun blast as the hostage escaped uninjured. Police said Gale, whose arrest record lists him as 6 feet 3 inches tall and 225 pounds, used a Beretta 9 mm semiautomatic handgun and reloaded once during the shooting. Gale’s prior arrests were all nonviolent, and included driving with a suspended license and trespassing.
Police have not confirmed the names of the three wounded victims, but the club’s manager told the Dispatch that one of them was a security guard who had tried to wrestle the attacker’s gun away. Damageplan reps say the other two wounded were tour manager Chris Paluska, who is in critical but stable condition, and drum tech John “Kat” Brooks, who was scheduled to be released from the hospital Friday.
“If the officer hadn’t acted when he did and how he did, we’d probably be looking at more dead, because this guy was actively shooting,” Mull said. Following the incident, police took more than 200 patrons onto three city-donated buses, where they were interviewed by some 60 police detectives.
“The ones that were inside and witnessed this ran for their lives and were in fear for their lives,” Mull said. “They are victims too, and we want to take care of them.”
In 911 tapes released Thursday, one caller tells the operator, “There’s been a shooting! Somebody’s shooting! He’s shooting the band, oh sh–, he’s still shooting!” Another is heard frantically telling the 911 operator, “We need to get out, we need to get out! I can’t, I can’t get out.”
One concertgoer, his jeans torn and soaked with blood, told CNN he jumped onstage and attempted to give Darrell CPR before paramedics arrived.
Police have interviewed friends and relatives of the shooter, attempting to establish a motive for his actions. “We may never know the motive for this,” Mull said, “unless he left a note somewhere else.”
One eyewitness, 37-year-old food vendor Medhat Mokhtar, told MTV News that he saw Gale lingering outside the club prior to Damageplan’s set. Gale paced near Mokhtar’s food cart and only entered the club when Damageplan’s performance began. Shortly thereafter, Mokhtar noticed concertgoers fleeing the club and screaming, and the vendor headed inside to see what the disturbance was. He said he then made his way to the stage where a crowd had gathered around the wounded Darrell. “I tried to push them away, but people loved him too much. The people were kissing his hands and his feet and trying to give him CPR,” Mokhtar said.
Searching Gale’s residence is the next step of the investigation, as is analyzing amateur video footage taken of the incident, which homicide investigators are looking at now, Mull said. The venue had no surveillance footage. Mull also said he had been told there was no metal detector at the club, though he could not confirm that at press time and a club spokesperson could not be reached.
As word of Dimebag’s death rippled through the metal community, the news was met with shock and sadness (see “Ozzy, Dave Mustaine, Jonathan Davis Remember Dimebag Darrell” ).
“I’m speechless,” former Rob Zombie/ Ozzy Osbourne bassist Rob Blasko Nicholson said. “This is totally unreal. Dimebag is a f—ing legend and this is total bullsh–.”
“This is insane and this is beyond travesty,” Killswitch Engage frontman and former Damageplan tour partner Howard Jones said. “This is beyond anything I’ve ever heard. This shouldn’t happen in or outside of the rock and metal community. He will be missed and mourned as a person, as a musician, and as a friend.”
“Let’s for a second forget that I even knew him, [and focus on] just the fact that this was allowed to happen,” Slipknot singer Corey Taylor said. “If somebody can jump onstage with a gun and shoot one of the most influential guitarists of my generation, what’s next? If this is allowed to happen, what the hell? What does that say? Just that somebody would think this was a good idea in his own insane world, what does that say about where we’re at right now? It’s definitely given me pause. I’m an entertainer as well as a musician, so I have to look at this and think not only has one of my really good friends died, but what if that had been me?”
Damageplan also features Dimebag’s brother, former Pantera drummer Vinnie Paul; singer Patrick Lachman and bassist Bob Zilla.
For fans’ reactions, check out “Hundreds Of Fans Gather At Club Honor Dimebag Darrell” and You Tell Us.
Click here for more on the tragic death of Dimebag Darrell and the Ohio club shooting.
For much more on Dimebag Darrell’s life, music and influence, tune in to a special edition of “Headbangers Ball” premiering Saturday night at 10 p.m. ET on MTV2.
[This story was updated at 3:10 p.m. ET on 12.10.2004]