MARYSVILLE, Ohio — In a small town where
people greet you by name at Maggie's Restaurant and
where the guy who runs the local pawn shop will do
what he can with your wife's wedding ring because he
knows you need the cash for Christmas, Nathan Gale was
a stranger in plain view.
His apartment at 111 1/2 E. Fifth St., half a block
from the downtown shopping district's single
stoplight, put him right in the heart of this
close-knit community of 16,000 residents. But even
though he spent hours every day hanging out at the
restaurant and tattoo parlor near his apartment, most
of those who came into contact with Gale said they
barely remember exchanging a word with the 25-year-old
who opened fire at the Alrosa Villa in nearby Columbus Wednesday night, killing former Pantera guitarist "Dimebag" Darrell Abbott and three others before being gunned down by police (see "Dimebag Darrell, Four Others Killed In Ohio Concert Shooting").
The ex-Marine lived alone in the apartment above an
abandoned storefront, a block away from M&M Pawn and
Loan, a narrow, one-room shop whose walls are stacked
high with audio and video equipment, DVDs, a dozen
electric guitars and a row of shotguns. "I only
remember him because he had those thick glasses and he
used to come in here with some of the kids from the
tattoo parlor," said manager Darren Fry, 28.
Fry was quick to pull down a semiautomatic rifle from
the wall and explain that Gale used to come in and
handle the gun, which Gale said reminded him of a
weapon he used while in the Marines. Though Gale never
bought a gun from the shop, Fry said, the young man
left a lasting impression. "He seemed a little
disturbed," Fry recalled as a nearby customer, whose
fiancee once lived next door to Gale, shook his head
silently in agreement. "He made me a bit uneasy. I
wouldn't want to sell him a gun anyway."
Next door to M&M, at Lee Dog's Locker Room Saloon &
Grill, where Gale's mother, Mary Clark, used to work,
the impression was different. "He seemed like a really
good guy," said bartender Teresa Speakman. "He was
just real quiet and he never bothered anybody."
Two days after the shooting spree, it was hard to walk
down Main Street without running into someone who
either knew Gale or had run into him from time to
time. Several shoppers said they remember his hulking,
hooded figure walking quickly up and down Fifth Street
several times a day, often dressed in the same outfit
for days in a row.
Though Gale was never arrested for a violent offense, Marysville Police Chief Floyd K. Golden said his officers had contact with him a number of times. Gale was stopped twice for driving with a suspended license, most recently on November 17, when police spotted him acting suspiciously in his car. While stopped at a red light, Golden said, Gale failed to go when the light turned green, causing officers to pull him over and issue a citation.
"When you live in a small city or village, you run
into the same people and problems pretty often,"
Golden said. "But over the past seven to eight years
there were no real serious problems with him. He was
not the kind who drew a lot of attention." Golden said
Gale's charges ranged from criminal trespass in 1997
for skateboarding at the local Kmart to a June 1999
charge for criminal trespass for repeatedly sleeping
in a local park.
Most shocking for Golden, and for many in the town,
was that one of their own would be involved in this
kind of crime. "You have thefts, disorderly conduct
... but this is a shock to the community."
A woman who answered the door at the town's Eagles
lodge, which was in full swing mid-day Friday,
confirmed that Mary Clark worked at the social club
but would not say whether she was on duty. At
Maggie's, just two doors down from Gale's apartment,
the talk of the day Friday focused on the murders and
the negative attention on the city. Still, several
patrons went out of their way to say they planned to
attend Gale's funeral to support his grieving mother.
Waitress Cathy Bender said Gale used to stop by the
restaurant three or four times a week to eat. "He was
in here two weeks ago today, sitting at the bar,
talking to my 3-year-old grandson and asking him about
his Hot Wheels cars. He said, 'Have you been a good
little boy for Santa Claus?' It made me think he was a
kind person, but everyone who came into our tattoo
parlor across the street knew him and thought he was a
Bender co-owns the Bear's Den Tattoo Studio with her
husband. The shop, across the street from Maggie's, is
where Gale spent hours each day in the months leading
up to the rampage.
"I never saw him with anybody," said Cathy Bender's
daughter, piercing artist Autumn Bender, 25. "He
didn't have direct conversations with anybody, and he
would look down a lot to avoid looking at people."
Autumn Bender pierced Gale's ear on November 26 and
said he would come in several times a day, every day,
and talk to himself or his imaginary dog. "His friends
started to distance themselves from him over the years
because of his talking to himself and how he changed,"
Not long ago, Gale came in and spoke to Autumn
Bender's father, fellow ex-Marine "Bear" Bender, about
wanting to get a tattoo of a Marine emblem; he quickly
changed his mind, though. Autumn Bender said Gale gave
the staff at the Bear's Den "the creeps," but as
different as her assessment of the Alrosa Villa
shooter was from her mother's, her brother's was even
The night of the concert, 23-year-old Lucas Bender and
fellow tattoo artist Bo Toller were confronted by an
unusually agitated Gale. "He came in around 6:30 the
night of the show and he asked Bo if he could buy some
tattoo equipment," Lucas Bender said. "Bo explained
that you had to be an artist and that we didn't sell
that equipment. He stared at Bo and just threw down
the magazine he was looking at and said, 'Bullsh--,
man!' I thought that was weird, because he was usually
so quiet and eerie. He called Bo a liar and then he
Lucas Bender described other odd behavior, such as
when Gale would come in and stare at the security
camera in the far corner of the store for minutes at a
time. Mostly, though, the quiet young man made Bender uncomfortable, partly due to his size and difficulty to read.
"Just three or four days ago he came in here and was
hanging out as usual and I told him this was not a
hangout spot and he had to leave," Lucas Bender said.
"After he left, a bunch of my friends were hanging
around and they started making fun of him, saying,
'What's wrong with that guy?' But I didn't make fun of
him. I like to profile people behind their backs and
most of the time I'm right," he said, staring
intently. "I said they should stay away from a guy
like that. I said he's like those Columbine kids, and
you never know if he might mow somebody down some
Thursday night, Lucas Bender ran into one of his
friends who had been making fun of Gale a few days
earlier. "He just stared at me and was kind of
For fan reaction to the Alrosa Villa slayings, check
out "Hundreds Of
Fans Gather At Club Honor Dimebag Darrell"
For artists' reactions, check out "Ozzy, Dave Mustaine, Jonathan Davis Remember Dimebag".
Click here for more on the tragic death of Dimebag Darrell and the Ohio club shooting.